Is Root Beer Alcoholic?

Is root beer alcoholic?

Root beer is among the most popular drinks worldwide, with an anticipated worth of $1.09 billion by 2030. Interestingly, many of the beverage’s consumers aren’t sure whether it’s alcoholic.

If you’re among these root beer lovers wondering if the drink has a certain amount of alcohol, keep reading this blog. 

Besides letting you in on that secret, we’ll also provide more details about root beer, including its history, versions, how to brew it, and the most popular brands on the market. Let’s get this show on the road!

History of Root Beer

Root beer is a sweet soft drink whose production history dates back to the 1840s. Initially, the beverage was brewed with ingredients like sassafras root and bark as an alternative to beer. Back then, it was also consumed hot and sometimes combined with soda. 

As time flew, root beer brewers added more ingredients to its recipe, including birch oil, sarsaparilla extract, and other spices to flavour it. 

Additionally, root beer wasn’t only consumed for its distinctively sweet taste; some liked it for its medicinal benefits. For instance, the beverage has an impressive capability to cleanse blood. Plus, it can boost one’s skin health. 

Centuries, many people also referred to root beer as “root tea” since brewers also used a wide range of flavourings, including dandelion root. 

In 1886, Charles Elmer Hires invented the commercial production of root beer and its artificial carbonation by adding carbon dioxide during bottling. That increased the beverage’s popularity and made way for the brewing of the drink’s non-alcoholic versions available today. 

How Root Beer Is Made

Root beer has various ingredients, including herbs, spices, and sweeteners like molasses or corn syrup. Others are: 

  • Sassafras root – This ingredient gives root beer a unique flavour by infusing it with natural oils from the sassafras tree’s roots. When carbonated, the mucilage inside the latter gives traditional root beers a creamy texture.
  • Dandelion root – This key ingredient is rich in nitrogen, creating bubbles and a subtle bitter note to the beer.  
  • Birch bark –  Dried birch bark adds depth of flavour and gives root beer some antioxidant properties. The wintery flavouring also produces an alluring aroma and slight notes of coffee-like malted sweetness.

Is Root Beer Alcoholic?

Traditionally, fermentation was used to make root beer. Thanks to the process, the beverage had an alcohol content of about 2%.

Traditional root beer is rare because modern production methods have replaced the old brewing process.

Although the new chemical recipes are more efficient, they don’t deliver the same depth or taste as the old ones. Again, the root beer made from them is non-alcoholic as it lacks any alcohol. 

Modern Interpretations: Non-Alcoholic Root Beer

Because root beer is non-alcoholic, it appeals to adults and kids alike. As so, many companies worldwide avail the beverage to meet the needs of their ever-growing list of enthusiasts. 

Sprecher Brewing Co., an American microbrewery founded in 1985, is one of the most popular brands providing root beer.  

Small Town Brewery is also well-liked in the rot beer market, thanks to its Not Your Father’s Root Beer, an innovative, low-calorie, complex option with 5% ABV and natural flavours. 

Hank’s Root Beer, made by New York’s Pabst Brewing Company, combines traditional root beer flavouring with a high ABV of 6%. 

Another complex root beer is the distinctive Firkbrau Hard Root Beer from California’s High Water Brewing, which is excellent as a stand-alone beverage or mixed cocktail ingredient. 

Alcoholic vs. Non-Alcoholic Root Beer: Main Differences 

As of this writing, the market is awash with alcoholic and non-alcoholic root beer. Learning to distinguish between the two is essential to help you make the best purchase decisions. 

Here are some main factors to watch out for when differentiating alcoholic root beer from non-alcoholic options. 

Labels and Indicators on Packaging

When understanding what type of root beer consumers purchase, labels and indicators on the packaging play a critical role. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages have different labelling requirements under federal law.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires malt beverages, including those containing alcohol or not, to be labelled with Certificates of Label Approvals (COLA). This is regardless of whether they are made commercially or at home.

Such labelling regulations help ensure that consumers can quickly determine if their root beer contains alcohol without opening the container. 

Depending on the ingredients used in certain brews and other preparations, alcoholic beverage manufacturers must also include government warnings about the potential risks of drinking their products.

Purchasing Locations and Laws

Alcoholic root beers are typically sold where alcoholic beverages are available, such as liquor stores, speciality beer shops, and even some supermarkets.

However, with the rise of craft varieties of alcoholic root beer, the beverage is available for sale in a few locations, depending on your area of residence.  

As a consumer, you should know these purchasing locations and laws as they could affect your purchasing power. For instance, in the U.S., buyers must be 21 or older to lawfully purchase any store-bought alcoholic products that contain more than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).

When it comes to commercial versions of brewed root beers with 3-7% ABV, many states only allow their sale in licensed establishments that require an ID check upon entry at all times.

Popular Root Beer Brands and Their Alcohol Content

Check out some of the most popular non-alcoholic root beers and their unique aspects: 

Brand NameOriginUnique Characteristics
A&W Root BeerUSAFounded in 1919, A&W is a well-loved American brand that consistently delivers a flavour that is both distinct and favoured by many consumers. It does not contain alcohol.
Abita Root BeerUSAAbita has made a name by focusing on high-quality ingredients and an artisanal brewing process. Despite being a company known for alcoholic beverages, their root beer lacks alcohol.

These brands are just examples of the non-alcoholic root beer offerings available to consumers. Each brings its unique touch to the root beer tradition, making it a favourite for many in the market.  

Review of Alcoholic Root Beer Brands

Alcoholic root beer brands are abundant in the market, each with a distinct taste and alcohol content. 

Here’s a summary of some popular alcoholic root beer brands we know: 

BrandAlcohol ContentNotable Information
Mission Brewery’s Hard Root Beer7.5%Produced by Coney Island Brewing Company, this hard root beer delivers a complex, full-bodied flavour, rich with spices, sweetness, and a hint of vanilla.
Not Your Father’s Root Beer5.9%Not Your Father’s Root Beer, produced by Small Town Brewery in Illinois, is a pioneer in the market of alcoholic root beers. This spiced ale delivers the classic root beer taste with the added kick of alcohol.
Coney Island Hard Root Beer5.8%Produced by Coney Island Brewing Company, this hard root beer delivers a complex, full-bodied flavor, rich with spices, sweetness, and a hint of vanilla.
Best Damn Root Beer5.5%Best Damn Root Beer, a product of Anheuser-Busch, is known for delivering a classic root beer flavor with a hint of caramel and vanilla. It’s smooth and easy to drink, making it a popular choice among hard root beer enthusiasts.

FAQs On Is Root Beer Alcoholic

Is root beer alcoholic?

Most varieties of root beer are not alcoholic since they don’t contain any alcohol content. Hence, anyone can consume it regardless of their age. 

What gives root beer its unique flavour?

Root beers typically contain extracts from plants like sassafras (for its mint-like taster), liquorice, or wintergreen, which provide a distinct flavour. 

Are there alcoholic root beers? 

Some breweries make root beer with a small percentage of alcohol, usually below 5%. Still, these root beer varieties are rare, so if you want to become intoxicated, you might have to purchase other alcoholic beverages.

Can I make alcoholic root beer at home? 

With the right ingredients, you can make alcoholic root beer at home. Some include vanilla extract, lactose sugar, caramel 90 malt, and hops. 

Alcohol Content in Root Beer

Root beer is a traditional beverage that has been around for centuries, typically containing no alcohol. However, some craft and commercial breweries have created alcoholic versions of root beer with varying percentages of alcohol content. 

You can enjoy root beer as an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, depending on your preference.

Make sure to check labels and research ingredients to know the ABV of your drink and type. Did you also know the world celebrates National Root Beer Float Day on the 6th of August? Don’t hesitate to try it today and have an even better time on that day! 

Dan Smullen Beer is my life profile

Hi, I'm Dan, founder of BeerIsMyLife. I've been an avid homebrewer for over ten years, and beer is my true passion. I've traveled all over the world, visiting breweries, tasting beer, as well as making my own batches. I set up this blog to share that experience with you.