The Food Issue

Weston brewery finds unexpected success with alcoholic ginger beer and root beer

During a recent production and canning day, Dawn Cole guided cans of the alcoholic root beer into the pasteurization machine at Weston Brewing Co.
During a recent production and canning day, Dawn Cole guided cans of the alcoholic root beer into the pasteurization machine at Weston Brewing Co. The Kansas City Star

Nonalcoholic ginger beer has been trending for a while, thanks to the popularity of Moscow Mules in copper cups.

But when Weston Brewing Co. rolled out Pedal Harder alcoholic ginger beer last fall, co-owners and brewers Michael Coakley and Corey Weinfurt found they couldn’t keep up with orders.

Another new product, Row Hard alcoholic root beer, is also selling better than expected. The company shipped 10,000 cases of the products in the first two weeks.

Both beverages cost $6 for a 4-pack of aluminum cans at O’Malley’s Pub, next door to the Brewery. They are only sold in liquor stores on the Missouri side of the metro area, but they hope to expand to regional and perhaps national distribution as soon as they can ramp up production. They are adding tanks in Weston and at a second brewing location in Kansas City.

Weston Brewing Company, which dates back to 1842 and is located in historic Weston, Mo., is making and canning Row Hard alcoholic root beer and Pedal Harder alcoholic ginger beer. Both beverages are sold at the pub and are in national distribution

“We’ve never had anything go out the door like the ginger beer and the root beer. With beer, there are so many beers out there, you get fans that are excited but not such a wide audience,” Weinfurt says.

The process for making both beverages is similar to beer, except they don’t contain barley. After a seven- to 10-day fermenting process, the ginger or root flavorings and sugar are added to balance out the bitterness of the alcoholic base.

The result: lightly carbonated drinks that, when chilled, taste similar to good nonalcoholic ginger beer and root beer. The warmer they get, the more assertive the bitter notes of the alcohol become, so drink them quickly out of the can or serve over ice.

The success of the ginger beer and root beer has spawned experiments with alcoholic versions of other traditional nonalcoholic beverages. “We’re working on a carrot drink and a mint drink. The theme is root cellar stuff,” Weinfurt says.

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