Taste Test:Hard Root Beer


It seems that these days there’s a “hard” version of every drink you might imagine. So when I went to a party a few weeks ago and the host asked if I wanted a hard root beer, I wasn’t surprised. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of regular root beer, but I thought I’d give the alcoholic version a shot anyway (because alcohol makes all things better, right?).

The host handed me Not Your Father’s Root Beer, but later I found there are several other brands — Coney Island and Sprecher among them. Not surprisingly, I didn’t care for it. I thought it tasted very sweet and left a coating of sugar in my mouth. What I did enjoy about it, though, was that I could hardly taste the alcohol, unlike some “hard” beverages that leave a cheap liquor aftertaste. (In fact, I double-checked the label to make sure it wasn’t just a bottled A&W.)

I wanted to get to the bottom of this adult root beer trend, so I gathered up three root beer lovers — my friend Jen Kennedy, my mom Tracey Calhoun, and my husband Dane Hanson — for a very un-scientific (but definitely more fun) experiment. I had them blind taste-test Not Your Father’s Root Beer and regular, non-alcoholic root beer to see what each of them preferred.

Of the three participants, Jen decided that the hard root beer just wasn’t for her. She thought it was unappealing for more than a couple of sips.

“Drinking one is one too many,” Jen explains. “It’s far too sweet for my tastes.”

Dane and my mom chose Not Your Father’s Root Beer over the traditional beverage and gave me two pretty solid insights: First, they could barely taste the alcohol, making it a great choice for those who don’t like an obvious liquor taste. And, two, it would pair well with vanilla ice cream for an adults-only root beer float.

“It was definitely a sweet taste — maybe even more sweet than a regular soda,” Dane said. “It smells and tastes just like root beer with lots of carbonation, except it gave me a wicked hangover.”

My survey results yielded two out of three stars, making Not Your Father’s a clear winner for your next party or holiday celebration. I picked up a six-pack from Safeway, but I’ve seen other hard root beer selections at Walmart, Target and Whole Foods.