Why is root beer called root beer?

+35 votes
asked May 22, 2015 in Food & Drink by Monserrat (950 points)
It seems like people either love root beer or hate it, but I’m definitely someone who loves it! I’ve never understood how it got that name though considering there’s no alcohol in it like a traditional beer. Why is root beer called root beer?

5 Answers

+22 votes
answered May 26, 2015 by Claudine (1,190 points)
Root beer was first called beer back in medieval times when the water was usually pretty unsanitary and undrinkable, so most people had to consume their liquids from teas and beers because it was safer. That image we always see of our long dead ancestors of this period always drunk or drinking has some truth to it after all. However, root beer was actually called a “small beer” because it was made from herbs, bark, and berries with a very low alcohol content. So originally root beer had a lot more in common with what we think of beer as today!
+10 votes
answered Jul 26, 2015 by Chavell (1,110 points)
Yes, the answer above is right. A pharmacist by the name of Charles Elmer Hires was the one responsible for the name of root beer. He was the first to have commercially sold a brand of root beer with high success in the market. Hires has chosen to abstain from drinks that contain any form of alcohol, person who does so is called a teetotaler back then, so he wanted to call it “root tea” initially, since the product was actually sassafras root tea. In order to market it to the Pennsylvania coal miners, he decides that calling his product “root beer” would sell better. He began bottling the now famous drink and by 1983, it was widely popular all over the US. Then non-alcoholic root beer soon appears on the market especially during the Prohibition era. They are called beer since it used to contain alcohol and root because it used to be made from root extract.
+9 votes
answered May 29, 2015 by Beth (670 points)
When the colonists first started farming in America, they found a lot of crops that they could brew something familiar with like what was considered small beer. To create that bitter beer taste, they used a lot of roots and this led to how root beer got its name.
+7 votes
answered May 24, 2015 by tomi (900 points)
Pharmacists first created the kind of root beer we drink today by trying to spruce up some old recipes passed down to make a cure-all kind of syrup for customers. Root beer got the first part of its name from the main ingredient used, sassafras root. When people started realizing that it was a much better soft drink than miracle cure, they marketed it as “beer” to target the working class. This was kind of a big deal when the alcohol prohibition was going on in America, but root beer remained since it had no alcohol content. I guess the idea of drinking a root “beer” was kind of nice for some when all the alcohol was banned and taken off the market.
commented Jun 1, 2015 by Jo Ann (1,330 points)
Wow, it’s the sassafras root, the main ingredient used, the reason why is root beer called root beer.
+5 votes
answered Jul 22, 2015 by KerryHarkins (290 points)
Why is root beer called root beer? Guess what, because it used to have root in its ingredients. Sassafras root was made into beverages by the Native Americans or medicinal and culinary purposes as far back as before the invasion of the Europeans on North America. Europeans, however, have been using the same culinary techniques that could be applied to make the traditional sassafras root-based drinks similar to the root beer we know today since the 16th centuries. Since the 1840s, root beer start selling in confectionary stores and the written recipes are found in 1860s. They could have combined it with the soda on the 1850s, giving the root beer the fizz, which is because the root beers are sold in syrup form rather than the drinks we know today.
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