Rob Miller cannot keep hard root beer in his store.
It’s a good problem to have, he admits, but fans desperate for a sip of the alcoholic root beer – the hottest “malternative” drink since Zima – are calling Goebel Liquor at 352 S. West St. all day and popping in to find out when he’ll be getting more.
Hard root beer, which tastes almost like the real thing but is 5.9 percent alcohol by volume, is a big deal in Wichita right now, Miller said.
“It drinks like root beer, and you just don’t taste the alcohol in it,” he said. “I’ve got people ages 21 to 80 coming in looking for this stuff.”
The first, and still most popular, brand Goebel got was Not Your Father’s Root Beer made by Small Town Brewery in Illinois. His first shipment arrived in mid-June, he said, and he sold 20 cases in a day. He started limiting people to one or two six-packs.
Ten days later, he got another 15 cases and sold those in four or five hours. The local distributor can’t keep up with the demand in the market, Miller said.
“We were running out, and I was getting 100 phone calls a day,” he said. “Our phones were blowing up every day.”
The craze is nationwide. According to an article published in Fortune magazine, which calls hard root beer the next big trend in craft beer, sales for Not Your Father’s Root Beer totaled $7.2 million from the beginning of the year through June 14, ranking it among the top 30 craft beer brands.
Miller has been able to keep another hard root beer in stock – Coney Island Brewing by Sam Adams. But only for short spurts.
“It was nuts, and of course, we couldn’t keep it in stock and the distributor couldn’t keep it in stock,” he said.
The hard root beer is sweet and thick and makes excellent “adult” root beer floats when paired with ice cream, Miller said.
Though local bars and restaurants also are having trouble getting the product, Gianni Bacci’s at 301 N. Washington has added an adult root beer float to its menu, made with Coney Island Root Beer and ice cream. The Oasis Lounge at 4121 W. Maple also has Coney Island in stock.
The craze now is hitting Wichita’s breweries. Wichita Brewing Co., which has restaurants at 535 N. Woodlawn and 8815 W. 13th St., has formulated its own hard root beer that it will release in the next week or two. It’s asking customers for name suggestions on its Facebook page.
“It just seems to be the newest fad,” said Brian Robinson, general manager. ‘It’s the next Zima. It’s like hard lemonade or those other fashionable drinks that don’t taste like they’ll get you drunk.”