Last Updated on November 25, 2023 by Lydia Martin
The question “does root beer have alcohol” may seem like it doesn’t need answering, but believe me, this question has pooped up more often than you’d think over the years I’ve worked alongside spirits.
So, if you’re one of those curious folks, I’ve got the answer for you. Read on to discover the fascinating truth about whether or not a bottle of root beer contains alcohol.
Root Beer: Does It Have Alcohol?
No, root beer does not usually have alcohol, but root beer with alcohol does exist.
Traditionally, root beer is a type of NA soda known for being sweet, creamy, and slightly spicy. You can find this type of root beer in grocery stores.
“Root beer: the bubbly brew that brings a taste of nostalgia in every sip.” – Liquor Laboratory
However, that’s not always the case – some variations have alcohol in them and are called “hard root beer.”
Root Beer Types & Their Alcohol Content
Traditional “Small Beer” Root Beer
You may be surprised to learn that root beer, as we know it today, wasn’t always alcohol-free. In fact, its origin is connected to a drink known as “small beer.”
According to history, water wasn’t always safe to drink because water pollution was a real concern, so people drank root beer/small beer instead. 
It was a brew of mixed ingredients like bark, herbs, and spices, and it bore a striking resemblance to what we now know as modern-day root beer. This brew contains low levels of alcohol, ranging from as high as 12% to as low as 2%.
Hard Root Beer (Alcoholic)
Hard root beer has an average of 5%-9% ABV.
Back in 2013, Sprecher introduced their version of this brew, which they dubbed Sprecher Hard Root Beer. 
They used their recipe for regular root beer but added an exciting bourbon and oak twist.
Hard soda, flavored malt beverages, and hard root beer experienced a meteoric rise in popularity following their release because people were drawn to the sweet, familiar flavors combined with the kick of alcohol.
Homemade Root Beer
When it comes to homemade root beer, you control how much alcohol it can contain.
One approach to this is adding flavorings to small batches of a base beer. This method will give you more alcohol (depending on the beer you use), but it might not capture its classic taste.
Furthermore, you can use different sugars. While the commercial version often calls for cane sugar, you can try using candy and corn sugar instead and see which one you like more.
What Is Root Beer Made Of?
Root beer is made with a simple syrup of sugar and water infused with the Sassafras root. 
Producers add yeast to create those delightful bubbles – much like how beer is brewed. The fermented yeast also generates a bit of alcohol, hence the “beer” in its name.
The Sassafras tree, native to the Eastern United States, gives it its signature taste. According to history, Native Americans once used this drink for its medicinal properties.
However, in 1960, the FDA banned the use of Sassafras and Sarsaparilla in commercial products due to its key component, Safrole, being identified as carcinogenic. Modern root beer typically uses artificial Sassafras flavoring or root beer extract instead.
Charles Hires is credited for the first commercially produced root beer, which he called “powder root tea.”
Is It Fermented?
Yes, root beer from the past is fermented, but nowadays, producers forgo the fermentation process and use carbonated water to achieve the drink’s bubbly nature instead.
This process involves sugars and yeast. Some modern brands still undergo fermentation, but most commercial root beers nowadays are no longer fermented.
Did It Originally Have Alcohol In It?
Yes, root beer originally had some alcohol in it. It was classified under “small beers” because it typically contained 0.5 to 2% ABV.
Yeast was added to the sugar and infused with the root bark of the Sassafras tree and Sarsaparilla for flavor.
During fermentation, the environment for yeast to produce alcohol is somewhat limited. The natural carbonation generates a high level of carbon dioxide, which is toxic to yeast, preventing it from exceeding 0.5% alcohol by volume.
Can Root Beer Get You Drunk?
No, root beer can’t get you drunk. Most popular root beer brands like A&W, Barq’s, Dad’s, Hires, and Mug don’t have alcohol.
However, hard root beer does exist, which contains some alcohol. Some popular brands, such as Not Your Father’s Root Beer, Coney Island, and Sprecher, have around 5 to 6% ABV.
This can get you wasted just as much as regular beer, so it’s important to pace yourself.
Can Kids Drink Root Beer?
Absolutely! Kids can enjoy root beer without any worries about alcohol.
Root beer, primarily commercially produced ones like Mug, is completely alcohol-free. It’s no different from other soft drinks or soda in that regard.
The only thing little children might get from this drink is a sugar high!
Is Root Beer Healthy?
Root beer is not necessarily healthy, but it’s not unhealthy, especially if consumed in moderation.
Root beer contains high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a sugar that can contribute to weight gain and diabetes. More sugar in your diet could also cause tooth decay. 
Furthermore, it contains caffeine, which may disrupt your sleep. If you’re a coffee enthusiast, remember that root beer can increase your caffeine intake, which could cause you to feel restless and jittery.
Artificial flavorings are also added to enhance the root beer’s taste, which could cause allergic reactions, worsened asthma, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and vomiting in some people.
Alcoholic Vs Non-Alcoholic Root Beer
How It’s Made
Root beer is made with a simple mix of sugar, syrup, and Sassafras or Sarsaparilla roots. Yeast was added, contributing to the drink having a low ABV (around 1 to 2%).
However, in the 1960s, the FDA banned these herbs due to their carcinogenic properties.
Root beer in modern days uses carbonated water instead of yeast. Instead of herbs, producers use artificial flavors to get the signature “root beer” taste.
Purchasing Locations & Laws
You can find root beers with alcohol in liquor stores, specialty beer shops, and some supermarkets.
In the United States, you must be 21 or older to purchase any alcohol with more than 0.5% ABV legally.
On the other hand, most commercial root beers can be purchased at grocery stores, regardless of age.
Labels & Indicators On Packaging
The labels and packaging on the bottle should clearly indicate whether or not the root beer has any alcohol.
“I remember the days of sipping root beer… and it’s a reminder that the simple pleasures in life can bring the greatest joy.” – Oprah Winfrey, Actress and Host
The FDA mandates that malt beverages have Certificates of Label Approvals on their labels. This rule applies whether it’s commercially produced or homemade root beer.
How is root beer non-alcoholic?
Root beer is typically non-alcoholic because the fermentation process used to make it doesn’t create enough alcohol to be classified as a beverage with alcohol.
However, there are exceptions like “hard root beer,” where some alcohol is intentionally added.
Is the root beer halal?
Root beers are considered halal because they don’t contain alcohol. However, we still advise checking the ingredient list to ensure there are no non-halal components.
Does alcoholic root beer taste good?
Yes, alcoholic root beers taste good! The unique combination of traditional root beer with the added kick of alcohol is always a welcome flavor.
No, root beer does not typically contain alcohol. This type of beverage can be likened to regular soda.
While it was brewed with some alcohol in the past, modern commercial root beer doesn’t contain such and can be consumed without the fear of getting tipsy.
However, there are exceptions like “hard root beer.” Producers intentionally add alcohol to this type of root beer to create an alcoholic version. Most hard root beers in the market have around 5% ABV.