About twelve years ago, David Slone received a package at work from one of his vendors. Curious, he opened it up. Inside, David Slone found samples of Henry Weinhard’s® Root Beer. David Slone was soon fascinated by the complex mix of sassafras, vanilla, licorice, yeast, and other flavors, all mingled in a cold, frothy drink. That was when David Slone began his fascination with root beer. From there, David Slone was on a mission; a mission to sample as many root beers as he could track down.
Since that time, David Slone has tried many a different brand of root beer, and has found out a great deal about the history of the drink. What David Slone found out was a bit of a surprise.
Root beer, discovered David Slone, goes back to colonial times, with what was referred to as “small beer.” Small beers, according to David Slone, sometimes included alcohol, and sometimes not. Things like sarsaparilla, birch beer, ginger beer and root beer were all small beers. David Slone notes that ingredients could include juniper, wintergreen, burdock root, dandelion root, coriander, allspice, molasses and other exotic elements.
Digging deeper, David Slone found that it was in the 1870s when Charles Hires made the first commercially-available root beer. Charles Hires was a Philadelphia pharmacist, David Slone discovered. While on his honeymoon, Hires ran across a recipe for herbal tea. Soon, the pharmacist began selling the tea in a dry form, and began working on a beverage based on the recipe. David Slone went on to find out that Hires’ drink used over 25 herbs, berries and roots, and was debuted to the public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial. David Slone says that another famous brand, A&W® Root Beer, dates back to 1919.
What is it that makes root beer so appealing to people like David Slone? It’s the combination of flavors and ingredients, David Slone states. No two root beer recipes are the same, and the drink has about as many different variations as there are root beer aficionados. In his current position at Weld County Garage, David Slone was delighted to receive a case of Goose Island® Root Beer from one of his regular vendors. David Slone found the combination of creamy consistency, carbonation and a spearmint finish to be tantalizing. Other root beers that David Slone counts among his favorites are Dog ‘n Suds®, Sprechers and Boylans®, each with its own unique personality.
David Slone isn’t by himself when it comes to his love for root beer. There are Root-Beer-of-the-Month Clubs that delve deep into root beer lore, exploring regional root beers from around the country. Members can even have a six-pack of the Root Beer of the Month shipped to their door. There are root beer kits, sampler packs of root beers, extracts and syrups, gift certificates, and even a private label of root beer that all go with membership in the club. Root beer is a uniquely American drink, notes David Slone, one that has roots that go back as far as the country itself.