The Humble Beginnings of Root Beer

Root Beer— It Can’t Get More American Than This

Root beer is the celebrity of the beverage world. But did you ever stop to wonder about the origins of root beer? Every beverage starts small and then skyrockets to success. The same happened with root beer, except no one digs deep to uncover the roots of root beer.

We did.
In our digging, we discovered something astounding.

Let’s Time Travel

We traced the origins of its history all the way back to the English playwright Shakespeare. Early historical documents reveal that Shakespeare drank “small beers.” The inspiration behind this European brew was an early colonial American recipe.

The recipe contained 2% to 12% alcohol hence making it a light social drink handcrafted using berries, bark, and herbs. The American Colonial times gave birth to root beer. They introduced root beer with other beverages. This included Birch Beer, Ginger Beer, and Sarsparilla Beer.

However, it was root beer that stole the show. 18 th -century historical documents show farmers brewing root beer with alcohol for family gatherings, parties, and social events, and this is still true today. The
only difference is that you can find alcohol-free root beer in various flavors, so now, kids can enjoy its unique taste.

Shakespeare wasn’t the only one who enjoyed small beers, but America’s founding fathers George Washington and Benjamin Franklin did as well. Washington developed his own root beer recipe, whereas Franklin drank a root beer with breakfast.

Are you ready for another surprising revelation? Let’s go then!

Root Beer’s Amazing Medicinal Properties

Historians will tell you that root beer was an accidental creation. The story goes:

In 1870, an eager and inventive pharmacist inspired to create a miracle drug. He started experimenting with various ingredients. Like a witch with her cauldron, he combined a handful of roots, herbs, and berries with wintergreen, pipsissewa, juniper, vanilla beans, dog grass, hops, licorice, birch bark, and spikenard.

He created a bitter and sweet drink— not the one you’re used to drinking today— and marketed it as a cure-all beverage. However, he failed to impress the public with it, and it soon faded into oblivion until 1876.

Root Beer Finally Becomes a Hit

Pharmacist Charles Hires discovered an herbal tea on his honeymoon that he just couldn’t put down. He took the recipe back home in Philadelphia because why should he be the only one to enjoy it. The recipe consisted of roots, berries, and herbs. He sold it as a packaged dry mix, which became an instant hit.

He upgraded the herbal tea from a dry mixture to a liquid mixture made from over 25 herbs, roots, and berries, and the public went mad in a good way, of course. He followed up the success by introducing his root beer commercially in 1876 and sold bottled root beer in 1893.

He Didn’t Just Cement His Place in the Root Beer Hall of Fame, but He Also Opened Doors for Other Root Beer Aficionados to Create Their Own Version of Root Beer

However, the government was there to put a kink into their plan.

The Sassafras Oil Ban

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960 cracked down on the use of sassafras oil, root beer’s main ingredient. Sassafras root has a tangy and thick taste. The FDA labeled it as a carcinogen, as it contains80% safrole, a cancer-causing carcinogen. With root beer’s key ingredient banned, root beer makers were in a frenzy trying to find an alternate.

The sky opened up, and the light streamed down— SOLUTION!

Inventors extracted oil from sassafras, thus removing the carcinogen and saving the root beer industry.

Your Modern Day Root Beer

Root beer has evolved with time. Root beer manufacturers have put their own spin on the famous recipe, adding a wide range of ingredients to the brew. Wintergreen, cinnamon, nutmeg, cherry, ginger, and more are just some of the popular ingredients added to the brew.

Even with root beer’s fame, it has gotten bad publicity due to its high sugar content. The scientific community badmouths root beer as being the cause of obesity, tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.

A few root beer manufacturers have worked to change root beer’s image of being a completely unhealthy drink to a slightly healthier beverage. Instead of sweetening it with harmful sweeteners, they have started using pure cane sugar for some, even making it caffeine-free .

Although not completely a healthy solution, the formula is much better than what it used to be before. At least, it would be enough to avoid the medical community’s wrath.

Have You Ever Tried Root Beer?

You can’t say you don’t like root beer without trying it. Plus, you have just read the entire elaborate history of root beer. So, aren’t your taste buds craving for a taste? Promise us that you’re going to drink root beer the next time you come across it.

You never know that one sip may turn you into a root beer loyalist. A root beer loyalist is a person who’s always on the hunt for good tasting root beer across the United States.

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