During my year in Seattle, the two hip, trendy alcohols were mead and alcoholic ginger beer. Barely anyone did anything with mezcal, and cachaça was no where to be seen, but fermented honey and ginger showed up on Cap Hill menus like roasted Brussel Sprouts did in Orange County two years ago.
Now, I don't expect mead to ever really gain a Southern California foot hold, but ginger beer's showed up, and with that I hoped more alcoholic non-alcoholic beers would make their debuts, and you know what? Now you can get alcoholic root beer really easily, and it's super awesome.
I first ran into hard root beer at Trader Joe's, which sells Not Your Father's Root Beer from a place called Small Town Brewery in Wisconsin. I bought a six pack, had three of them one night while barbecuing, and ended the night super happy despite the fact that I didn't salt my skirt steak enough.
The next day, I headed down to Pizza Port in San Clemente, and what do you know, they had just gotten in some Hard Root Beer from Mission Brewery in San Diego. I had one (and a sample) with my pizza and was pleasantly tipsy for the rest of the day. A week after, and my Sunday football venue has bottles of Coney Island Hard Root Beer. The Niners lost, but the day was okay.
Guys, alcoholic root beer is so good it almost singlehandedly made three of my days better, and if you even sort of enjoy any kind of root beer, you should try it out. All of the ones I've tried hit the flavors almost dead on (it's hard to describe through words, but they all taste almost exactly like soda. I could serve it to you blind, and you'd be surprised there was alcohol in it.)
Not Your Father's is my favorite. It's the most effervescent of the trio, and is the easiest to drink without feeling bogged down. It's closest non-alcoholic analog would be a slightly less spicy Barq's, and at 5.9 percent ABV, packs a decent punch. If you don't want to head to Trader Joe's, you can also find it at The Iron Press.
Mission's would be my second favorite, with many of the same flavors as Not Your Father's, but almost 50 percent more alcohol. It knocks you on your ass a lot quicker, which isn't exactly what I want when I'm drinking something that tastes like soda. Coney Island's, which sits at 5.8 percent ABV, comes in third because it's the most vicious. Still good though, if you can't find the other two.
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A preface: It's not something I drink seriously, so don't think about it too much when you are drinking it. Instead, think about how the Niner's head coach was a defensive line coach last year. Or how soy sauce can only do so much to beef in half an hour. But most importantly, have fun with it. You're drinking soda after all.