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The root to success: Aussie brewer predicts expansion of alcoholic root beer movement

By Rachel Arthur+

01-Apr-2016
Last updated on 01-Apr-2016 at 15:23 GMT2016-04-01T15:23:34Z

'When we finally hit the mark, it was definitely a eureka moment': East 9th Brewing.
'When we finally hit the mark, it was definitely a eureka moment': East 9th Brewing.

Alcoholic root beer is thriving in the US, and now an Australian brewery believes the beverage will prove to be the perfect fit for its own country.   

East 9th Brewing, which is located in St Kilda, Victoria, is releasing its alcoholic root beer ‘Future Memoirs Of A Root Beer’ this month. It believes the Australian root beer category has the potential to follow the popularity of the beverage in the US.

“The idea of alcoholic root beer seems to fit us - and our climate - down to the ground,” explains the brewery.

What’s special about alcoholic root beer?

Root beer (non-alcoholic) is a common US beverage.

But now the alcoholic root beer movement has been showing impressive growth in the country, appealing to drinkers who want new and different drinks. 

Popular US varieties include Not Your Father’s Root Beer, a beverage that its brewer Small Town Brewery says ‘appeals to craft beer aficionados as well as those who don’t typically drink beer but crave something unique.’ Another example is Coney Island Hard Root Beer, which launched last year.  

But that’s in the US. East 9th Brewing believes that Future Memoirs Of A Root Beer is one of the first alcoholic root beers in Australia, and therefore its conception had to be a matter of ‘gut instinct.’ The 4% ABV beverage boasts a blend of flavors that includes sassafras, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger.

“Arriving at the final taste profile for Future Memoirs of a Root Beer was challenge,” explained Benjamin Cairns of East 9th Brewing.

“Here in Australia, there was no real basis for comparison when it comes to root beer, so we really had to go with our gut instinct. It took us months to get it right, trialing and tasting what felt like hundreds of varying recipes.

“When we finally hit the mark, it was definitely a eureka moment!”

‘Alcoholic root beer seems to fit Australians down to the ground’

Founded six years ago, East 9th Brewing set out to tap into contemporary alcohol trends by creating products in niche categories that have recently risen in popularity, such as cider, sangria and alcoholic ginger beer.

Australian alcohol consumption trends
  • Consumers are more discerning about alcohol choices
  • Growing trend of premiumization
  • Unique experiences are valued
  • Looking for quality, variety & solid brand connection

In Australia, it sees consumers prepared to spend more money on a premium or unique experience, seeking quality, variety and a solid brand connection. 

East 9th Brewing says it turned to root beer having been inspired by the success of the US movement.

“We first wanted to create an alcoholic root beer some time ago, and since then, the category has really taken off in the US,” said Cairns. “The category has turned into one of the growth stories of the last couple of years.

“Alcoholic root beer in the US is thriving. It’s one of the driving forces behind the new wave of ‘beer-alternatives,’ we’ve seen these in Australia with the rise of the cider category, followed by flavored cider, then alcoholic ginger beer. 

“Here, we often follow trends from the UK and US, and the idea of alcoholic root beer seems to fit us (and our climate) down to the ground, much like cider - crisp and refreshing, over ice.

“I think that Australian consumers are continuing to demand wider choice and more interesting products.”

Broadening customers' drinking repertoires

East 9th Brewing says it has built up relationships with the on-trade in Australia over the past few years and is already seeing ‘incredible interest’ for its new root beer.

“We’re always trying to provide our on-trade customers with unique offerings that broaden their customers’ drinking repertoires, and introduce them to something new, or positioned in a distinctive way that’s a little out of the ordinary,” said Cairns.

“We see this on-trade footprint as key to introducing and educating consumers on the alcoholic root beer category, and the Future Memoirs of a Root Beer brand.”

But East 9th Brewing is aware that educating consumers is an important part of launching its new brew.

“Australian consumers will be aware of the concept of (non-alcoholic) root beer, but the majority won’t know what to expect as far as the taste profile is concerned, although, it’s quite close to what many people here know as sarsaparilla. 

“As mentioned, we see the on-trade as important for any emerging category, but in the case of Future Memoirs of a Root Beer, we also have some pretty exciting events and activations planned, of which we can’t divulge just yet!”

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