When fall comes around every year, we begin to think about different flavors than what we enjoy during the summer. Do you think of cinnamon, nutmeg, maple, or even ginger? Around here at the Dr Pepper Museum those flavors bring to mind root beers. When you think about your favorite root beer, most likely one of the major brands comes to mind, A&W, Hires, IBC, Stewarts, Barq’s, Mug or even the up and coming Thomas Kemper Root Beer. These seven root beers have earned their spot in the root beer hall of fame as some of the most widely distributed and popular varieties. These brands are owned and bottled by the major soft drink companies, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Coca-Cola Company, Pepsi Co. and Big Red Inc. Here’s a bit more about your favorite brands.
Hires Root Beer
The entrepreneurial spirit inspired the founder of this brand to develop innovative mixtures and packaging. Charles E. Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist, kick-started the root beer craze by improving upon an old herbal tea recipe he stumbled upon while on his honeymoon in the early 1870s. Roots, berries, and herbs combined with water, sugar, and yeast created a refreshing, carbonated drink that could be created by anyone at home by mixing all of the ingredients together. Hires impacted the soft drink business by innovatively pushing his product through advertising campaigns previously unseen. His product, synonymous with quality, rose to national prominence when introduced at the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia. Across the country, households used Hire’s home brew root beer kits to create their drinks at home. In 1989, Cadbury Schweppes acquired the brand, eventually spinning it off with the Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
A&W Root Beer
In Lodi, California, what started as a simple street vending operation during a parade on June 20, 1919 turned into a successful restaurant franchising business that spun off their signature product. During the parade celebrating the homecoming of World War I veterans, Roy Allen sold his root beer at 5 cents a mug. His parade profits were enough to entice a business partner, Frank Wright. The prevalence of the A&W roadside franchises exploded simultaneously with the automobile boom of the 1950s. In 1963, following Allen’s retirement from the business, the A&W Root Beer Company was sold to the J. Hungerford Smith Company that has manufactured the soft drink concentrate for the restaurants since 1921. In 1971, A&W was first available bottled in grocery stores. The company still had more tricks up its sleeve when in the 1980s, new flavors, A&W Cream and Diet Cream Sodas, were introduced to the product line. Cadbury Schweppes later acquired this root beer in 1993. This brand was then spun off into the Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
IBC Root Beer
In 1919 the Griesediek family, operators of the Independent Breweries Company (IBC) developed an alternative to their usual line of alcoholic beverages in response to prohibition. The result was a tasty root beer native to St. Louis and was a local hit. Unfortunately, the brewery closed. The trademark for the tasty beverage changed hands twice during the 1920s-1930s, appearing in local restaurants. The drink experienced a major resurgence after World War II, when The Seven-Up Company purchased IBC and began promoting it throughout the Midwest and South. In 1986 The Dr Pepper Company purchased The Seven-Up Company, finally making IBC available nationwide. Presently, the product is part of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, alongside the spin-off sodas, Cream Soda and Black Cherry.
Stewart’s Root Beer
Stewart’s Root Beer and fellow spin-offs, Black Cherry, Oranges ‘n Cream and Berries ‘n Cream, too, are owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group following the split with Cadbury Schweppes. In 1924 Frank Stewart was looking to supplement his schoolteacher’s salary and began his own root beer stand by selling his brew in ice-cold mugs. In the early 1990s, Stewart sold his soda, and then cream soda and ginger beer were added to the Stewart’s family. Today the Stewart’s line is available in stores nationwide.
Barq’s Root Beer
Barq’s Root Beer was first produced by Edward Barq in the late 1800s at his bottling company, Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works in Mississippi. Originally, the marketing strategy emphasized stressing the product’s differences compared to root beers on the market at the time. In fact, the product avoided calling itself a root beer to avoid infringing upon Hires, who was attempting to trademark the term, “Root Beer.” Barq’s was caffeinated, with less sugar and a stronger sarsaparilla base. Barq’s grew a faithful following, and two companies bottled the product independent of each other. In the mid-1970s, legal disputes arose between regional bottlers when attempting to take the product national, but all conflicts were settled by the Coca Cola Company in 1995.
MUG Root Beer
Native to San Francisco, California, MUG Root Beer began as a product of the Belfast Beverage Company who marketed the drink locally. After reviewing local success, the company renamed itself MUG Old Fashioned Root Beer, and took the product nationwide. The product sold, and a sugar-free variety was added to its line up in the 1960s. Adding a companion cream soda happened soon after. During the 1980s, PepsiCo bought the products, adding a quality product to a powerhouse company.
Thomas Kemper Root Beer
In 1990, during a wildly popular Oktoberfest celebration in Poulsbo, Washington, the Thomas Kemper Brewing Company resident brewmaster crafted the first batch of root beer using honey as a sweetening agent. A year following the first batch, the Thomas Kemper Soda Company was formed to deliver the product to the people. Throughout the 1990s, the company changed hands many times, all while still producing the remarkably smooth root beer that made them famous. The rich formula became synonymous with a premium product in 2008, when all traces of high fructose corn syrup were replaced with pure cane sugar. Big Red acquired the soda company in 2011, determined to expand the product into new markets.
The Dr Pepper Museum is located at 300 S. 5th Street in downtown Waco. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM and Sunday from Noon until 5:00 PM, last ticket sold at 4:15. For more information, visit us on the web at drpeppermuseum.com. To purchase your own
Dr Pepper memorabilia, visit the Museum’s online gift shop.