Distilled: Hard Root Beer is hard to take

By Columbus Alive
From the September 5, 2013 edition

Generally I’m not attracted to “hard” alcoholic beverages. Whether it’s lemonade, tea or raspberry whatever, I stay away. But Sprecher Brewing Co. recently released Bootlegger’s Bourbon Barrel Hard Root Beer and I was intrigued.

High expectations for ard oot beer were nil, but I’m a big fan of regular root beer, so I had to try it.Unfortunately, the reason I don’t enjoy hard lemonades, et al. wprevailing sweetness. I’m sad to say, this is still the case with Sprecher’s Hard Root Beer.

Sprecher’s Brewing Co. is a microbrewery in Milwaukee operating since the mid-’80s and offering a number of styles. With six year-round and about a dozen seasonal/premium/limitedreleased offerings, it’s surprising the Hard Root Beer is the first product I’ve tried from Sprecher’s.

I would never judge the entirety of a brewery’s line by trying only one of its products — especially something like a Hard Root Beer. I’ve heard some good things about some of Sprecher’s offerings, but this wasn’t a good first impression.

Sprecher’s isn’t the only alcoholic root beer on the market — Small Town Brewery in Chicago has 10- and 19.5-percent ABV versions — but it’s the most prevalent. An alcoholic root beer is a fun idea, and root beer fans (like myself) have probably wondered why it hasn’t happened sooner. Hopefully a better version is already out there or coming soon.

At first glance (or smell if you will), Sprecher’s Hard Root Beer has some solid characteristics; a malty root beer aroma with a hint of vanilla. The bourbon notes aren’t particularly noticeable. It also presents a decent amount of carbonation, if not a significant head.

The main problem with Sprecher’s Hard Root Beer is sweetness. It’s way too sweet — like, I believe I got a cavit after only one. Initially, the taste is almost dead-on to root beer crossed with beer and a dollop of bourbon (albeit still too sweet). But after a couple sips, whoa! syrupy molasses-type effect become unbearable.

I’m guessing this product is designed for those who don’t want to taste the alcohol in their alcohol. While there are plenty of those drinkers out there, I’m not one of them.

Photo by Tim Johnson