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Small Town Brewery | Not Your Father’s Root Beer

Not Your Father's Root Beer
Johnathan Pylant

Average Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Root Beer, Pre-Prohibition style
ABV 5.9%

Want to know what the biggest thing since craft beer is? I mean, this stuff can’t stay on the shelves. People don’t even realize how cool this stuff is. Coney Island Brewing has done it, Sprecher Brewing is known for theirs, Abita does a non-alcoholic version of it, but none of them have taken off quite as ferociously as Small Town Brewery’s Not Your Father’s Root Beer.

I remember this stuff arriving at the store I frequent and thinking, “oh, here is another.” I say that because, most of the time, when these breweries try out a root beer, it kind of falls short. This is especially true when it is a pre-prohibition style root beer. Abita does a good job on their non-alcoholic version, which I choose over soda brands when possible. However, there is not a really, REALLY, successful root beer with an alcohol content out there. Well, except Not Your Father’s Root Beer.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.59.30 AMEven the name is a step above the rest. It tips a hat to its history, right away. Not even your dad could find something like this on a shelf in any old store. This is especially true, now that most of you beer drinkers are closer to the age of my oldest daughter than me. Back before prohibition, it was common to find root beers and birch beers with an alcohol content. However, after the black fog of the beer industry drove the bars underground and severed the line between breweries and consumers, root beer made the switch to non-alcoholic to survive. It wasn’t until the craft beer revival that we started to see these gems popping up here and there. Now, you type “root beer” into Untappd and you get 761 results. Granted, A LOT, of those are homebrews or style variants, like a Root Beer American Stout, but there are still enough actual root beers on the list to click the “show more” button a couple times. They’re all different too, ranging from 0% and all the way up to 20+% ABV (that high-mark is thanks to Small Town Brewery too). So, how do we set them apart? Well, that doesn’t matter; all I care about is how freaking awesome Not Your Father’s Root Beer is!

“Small Town Brewery makes specialty beers that utilize unique ingredients with an unmistakable taste of nostalgia.”

– Small Town Brewery (label)

We all are, unless you’re a surviving WWI vet, accustomed to the root beer from Barq’s, IBC, A&W and Mug. We swear our allegiance to them too; really, it’s like talking to someone about “pop” versus “soda” versus “coke.” This established expectation is an obstacle for breweries trying to brew a pre-prohibition root beer. Some of them have a bite from the alcohol that takes away from the flavor of the root beer, while others are too sweet in an attempt to mask the alcohol. This is not the case for Small Town Brewery’s craft. Their recipe is claimed to have been the consequence of exhausting effort by the brewery owner and his son, resulting in an exquisite root beer flavor.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 11.15.19 AMThe root beer pours like any other root beer, but with a heavier head than its soda cousins. It is a very dark and opaque brown and black. It has a disarming aroma that hides the alcohol well with sassafras and caramel tones. The flavor is filled with what you remember a root beer to taste like, with emphasis on the vanilla. There are two tells that it is not a “regular” root beer. It has a flatter body than your average root beer, but one that leans well to it being a beer, rather than a soda. The other is the after taste. It surprises you the first time, because everything up to this point has told your brain “No, it’s cool. It’s just a root beer.” The after taste is boozier than you might expect. It is similar to the after taste of a whiskey and coke on the rocks. Then you take another sip, to recover from that little surprise, and another, and another…

This is a great, no perfect, alternative for that friend or family member who doesn’t like beer because of whatever. “Do you drink root beer?” and you are in! I surprised a few friends with this one a couple months ago at a tasting. Anyone who tasted it said, it is root beer. You will find complaints in forums that it is too sweet to be an ale or not an actual beer, but that is what Small Town Brewery wanted. It is exactly what it was intended to be.

Small Town Brewery’s root beer success has not gone unnoticed by the industry. Just this past March, Pabst Brewing Co. announced a deal with Small Town Brewery to raise distribution to nationwide levels by the end of 2015. Currently, Not Your Father’s Root Beer is available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Pabst is not taking ownership of the brewery, but is providing access to its distribution chain to reach the remaining 30% of the country. Know that, if you don’t have it in stores already, you soon will.

Those that do, try sitting back on a hot August day with hot dogs and burgers on the grill and enjoy this boozy cola with a friend or loved one. It is a lot of fun to drink and talk about!

*All photos used were from Small Town Brewery’s Official website and are property of Small Town Brewery.

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