I like beer. I know, I know, big fucking shocker. But that wasn’t always true, in fact nearly all the way through college I was about liquor and mixed drinks. It wasn’t until I discovered the glory of Power Hours that I had to acquire a taste for beer, because trying that shit with a cocktail is a one track ride to alcohol poisoning.
Anyway, I like beer, but I love soda. It’s been with me since childhood, and even if I’ve had to switch to the diet stuff in recent years (gotta leave room for vodka calories) I still depend on it for my caffeine needs as much as, if not more than, coffee. So, when this trend of releasing beers that are basically retooled soda hit the shelves, I was excited. It started simple, with root beer, one that already had beer in the title and was therefore a quick transition. But it seems with each passing month more and more weird shit is hitting the shelves, so I decided to try as many as I could find and save you all the trouble.
So Many Root Beers
Since root beer kicked off this trend, it only seemed appropriate that I start here. Truth be told, the first time I learned of the existence of alcoholic root beer wasn’t from my grocery store, it was fellow writer and lucky bastard Ryan Hill, who lived near the brewery and got access to the stuff before the nation-wide push. Eventually other distributors got involved, thankfully, and I was able to pair a favorite childhood beverage with the delicious booze that helps push the bad thoughts down. And shit, once this wave began, it swept across the whole damn country.
Coney Island Root Beer, Best Damn Root Beer, Not Your Father’s Root Beer, and that’s just what I’ve found at the Kroger near my place, I’m sure there are areas with a shitload more options. It can get daunting at first, with so many root boozes to choose from, but fear not good reader. I took this task seriously, and as a result I tried each of the brands listed above to be sure I could render an informed opinion about the product as a whole, as well as what the variants brought to the table. Don’t let me bury the lead here, either, there was a very clear stand-out in this group, one that I absolutely loved, and that was Not Your Father’s Root Beer.
While Coney Island and Best Damn were okay, both of them came in too sweet. Now let me digress for a moment: I fucking love sweet. My palette is basically that of a nine-year-old whose parents are substituting sugar for love. If I get iced tea, I’ll use half the fake sugars on the table for every glass. Sweeter, for me, usually equals better. But root beer isn’t supposed to have too much sweet upfront. It’s meant to have some bitter, balancing the sassafras and Not Your Father’s is the only one that comes close to hitting the genuine flavor. As always, your mileage may vary, I did grow up in the south meaning I drank a lot of Barqs, but for me NYF was the solid winner, and is in fact now a regular visitor in my fridge.
Henry’s Hard Orange Soda
I’m going to be real with y’all for a moment: I don’t think I would have bought this drink if I wasn’t working on the blog. Not because I’m too cool for it, I’ve just never been a huge orange soda fan. But by god I’d already committed to this, and there were only so many options at Kroger, so the bright orange liquid went into the cart anyway.
My first impression of this was not a good one. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but the mix of sweet, tart, and a touch of booze, wasn’t really it. That said, I’m not a man to let an opened beer go to waste, so I kept on drinking, and by halfway through the bottle I was actually starting to dig it.
Though I’d had no idea what to expect going in, once I got used to what it was I could actually appreciate the odd flavor. It didn’t change my world, and I doubt I’ll spend the money on another six-pack, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t drank a few more since that first bottle. Bottom-line, if you like orange soda, I think you should give this one a go. While it might not be exactly the same, it certainly has some merits in it’s own right, and you might just enjoy it.
Not Your Father’s Ginger Ale
There were like two other types of ginger ale in the store, including a Henry’s, but fuck that shit. I love root beer, I mix stuff with ginger ale. NYF, having won my esteem in the root beer tasting, was the chosen default to represent all boozy ginger ales.
And holy shit, that trust was misplaced. Like the orange soda, I didn’t like the first sip. Unlike the orange soda, I physically recoiled in disgust at it. This was, bar none, one of the worst things I’d ever drank in my life. I couldn’t even finish the bottle through normal means; I had to use a shot glass so I could knock back each disgusting drop. I really cannot put enough emphasis on how much I loathed this damned purchase.
Now, because my disgust was so severe, yet the product exists, I had to wonder if A) I’d gotten a bad batch or B) This was just fundamentally not meant for my taste buds. So I brought a few of the ginger-ale beers over to my friend’s house and let them give it a shot. As people who love Moscow Mules (which requires a ginger beer) I figured they would know if it was the product or me.
As it turned out, they really enjoyed the ginger-ale beer. I tried another sip and nearly gagged, so there you go: if you fucking love ginger, you may enjoy it. Otherwise, stick to the root beer. Shit, or the orange soda.
Or, if you’re having to cleanse your mouth like I did after the ginger-ale incident, there’s always the tried and true classic that will never let you down: vodka. Wait, are there vodka sodas? Holy shit y’all, looks like I’ve got some frantic googling to do!