It’s no secret that the craft beer scene has exploded in Minnesota. So much so, that the number of breweries in the state has surpassed the number Minnesota had prior to prohibition.
To stay interesting and relevant, breweries across the state are constantly introducing new flavors. From triple IPAs to pineapple Firkins to sour lines to mini doughnut beer, beer advocates can find anything from hoppy to sweet to in-between.
But what about taking a favorite beverage and creating a beer that tastes exactly like it?
That’s exactly what Tim Kovac of Small Town Brewery has done.
Not Your Father’s Root Beer smells and tastes exactly like the beloved soda. But don’t be fooled, it’s brewed like a beer.
Located in Wauconda, Ill., Small Town Brewery began brewing up the beverage in March 2015. In just three short months, the brewery expanded its distribution from local, to 30 states to 50. And now, beginning this month, they will be releasing it nationwide in cans.
Tim Kovac founder and brewmaster of Small Town Brewery spoke with me about creating Not My Father’s Root Beer and offered up some customized tailgating recipes from Executive Chef of Corkbuzz Wine Studio in NYC, AJ Schaller. And all in time for the Vikings home opener!
After deciding to open a brewery, why did you decide to create a root beer? What was the inspiration behind creating an alcoholic version of the beverage?
Kovac: At Small Town, we focus on making gruit-inspired brews with uniquely American flavors. Gruit , German for “herbs,” is an ancient way of bittering and flavoring beer using roots, spices, flowers and berries. This method was popular before the extensive use of hops as the main bittering agent. Our brews are inspired by this long forgotten artisanal method of brewing. Since gruit is the root of all beer, we decided there was no better gruit to start with than root beer. Additionally, there’s a whole beer renaissance in the U.S. today. People are looking for the next interesting brew and want variety in their beers just like they do with foods. I think bringing back some of our older recipes and trying to make them work for a modern palate will satisfy a lot of customers.
Clearly it has, as the product has proven to be very popular. So, what do you think it is about the beverage that appeals to beer drinkers? Non-beer drinkers?
Kovac: It seems like people are really starting to look for more interesting and different flavor profiles, so we see great potential. It is brewed with hops but doesn’t taste like beer, making it perfect for both hoppy beer lovers and those who don’t particularly enjoy beer. Not Your Father’s Root Beer attracts all types of people. Refreshing and smooth can be meaningful to everyone and anyone.
Based on it’s sweet taste, it’s interesting to learn that it is brewed with hops! I bet that intrigues the beer drinkers. So, tell me about the other beers Small Town Brewery makes.
Kovac: Currently, Not Your Father’s Root Beer is the only product we are producing nationwide. However, I love to experiment with traditional favorite flavors that aren’t necessarily associated with beer but are associated with other drinks or desserts that people love, such as Mom’s Apple Pie, (which we already brew at Small Town Brewery), Strawberry Rhubarb and Ginger Ale.
Those sound delicious! What a fun way to set your brewery apart, too. Are there any other flavors of beer that the brewery is working on?
Kovac: We also plan on brewing more traditional styles – a London Pilsner, double IPA and brown ale for example. We’re committed to perfecting new and interesting flavors that stay true to my family’s brewing tradition and evoke the same sense of nostalgia as the root beer. Stay tuned!
Sounds like it’s definitely worth a trip to stop into the brewery! Since opening, how has creating the product changed the business plan for Small Town Brewery?
Kovac: At Small Town, our goal is to honor my family’s beer making tradition by creating specialty beers with unique and flavorful ingredients. All the time and effort got us to the point where people would say, “Yep, Not Your Father’s Root Beer smells and tastes just like root beer.” It’s really exciting to see how well received this has been. It’s a dream come true for me and my family. We’re working hard to scale up production to meet demand, which is why it’s exciting that the 12-ounce cans started rolling out nationwide this month.
Definitely! Rolling out a new can line is always exciting and makes the product more versatile. So, with the Vikings homes opener taking place Sunday, Sept. 20 and the University of Minnesota’s homecoming on Sept. 25, why should people drink Not Your Father’s Root Beer while tailgating? What makes it a good tailgating beverage?
Kovac: Not Your Father’s Root Beer is delicious and refreshing when served cold in a chilled glass or over ice. It also makes a delicious root beer float, which is easy to make and enjoy while tailgating. You can also heighten your tailgating experience by using Not Your Father’s Root Beer as an ingredient in appetizers, dishes, desserts and cocktails. The possibilities are endless!
To find a restaurant or liquor store that sells Not Your Father’s Root Beer, visit Small Town Brewery online. Once you’ve gotten your six-pack, try some of these recipes before the big game!
NYFRB Pulled Pork Sandwiches
1 ½ Tbls. coarse salt
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. powdered garlic
1 tsp. mustard powder
2 ½ Tbls. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 4lb. boneless pork shoulder roast
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Combine salt and spices, and set aside one Tablespoon for BBQ sauce.
Place a roasting rack in a deep roasting pan or casserole and pour ½ inch of water in the bottom.
Rub the pork roast on all sides with the remaining spice mix, place on rack and cover the pan tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
Bake for four hours, or until the meat is very tender.
Meanwhile, make the BBQ Sauce and coleslaw.
Transfer the hot pork roast to a large saucepan, and with two forks, pull the meat to shred into smaller pieces.
Stir in the warm BBQ sauce.
½ pound bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
1 Tablespoon spice mix (see above)
2 bottles Not Your Father’s Root Beer
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon stirring, until rendered and crispy, about five minutes.
Add the onion and garlic; reduce heat to medium low, and cook, stirring until translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add tomato, jalapeño, spice mix, root beer, and vinegar and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. The liquid will reduce by ¼.
Transfer contents to a blender and puree until smooth.
Keep warm or reserve chilled for later use.
1 head red cabbage, cored and finely sliced
3 Tbls. coarse salt
1 large carrot, shredded
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery salt
In a large bowl, toss cabbage with salt. Set aside for one hour, the salt will soften and pull liquid from the cabbage. S
queeze out liquid from the cabbage, transfer to a clean bowl with remaining ingredients and toss well to combine.
16 potato sandwich buns
16 bibb lettuce leaves
Sliced Pickles, optional
Fill each bun with a spoonful of hot pulled pork. Top with a spoonful of coleslaw, lettuce and pickles if desired.
Root Beer Praline Pie
1 ¼ cup flour, plus extra for dusting
1 Tbls. dark brown sugar
1 egg yolk
½ cup cold water
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, cut in small dice
In a large bowl, whisk to combine flour and brown sugar. Add the butter and with a dough cutter or fork, combine to reach the texture of coarse meal.
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk and water. Add to flour mix, and stir until dough forms.
Press dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for two hours, or until firm.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
On a floured surface, roll dough into an approximately 1/8-inch thick round. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie tin, crimping the edges with your fingers. Trim away excess dough and prick the bottom several times with a fork.
Cover with a round of parchment paper and fill with baking weights (beans or rice). Bake for 30 minutes or until dough is lightly browned on the sides; remove baking weights.
6 bottles Not Your Father’s Root Beer
4 Tbls. butter melted
¾ cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 ½ cup toasted and chopped pecans
In a large non-reactive saucepan, boil root beer until reduced to one cup.
Reserve two tablespoons for whipped cream.
Add butter, sugar and salt to the saucepan with the remaining root beer, return to low heat and cook, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat, cool to room temperature, whisk in the eggs, and then the pecans. Pour into warm pie shell and bake until the center begins to firm, about 30-45 minutes. Cool to room temperature before slicing.
Root Beer Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 Tbls. reduced root beer (see above)
Up to two hours before serving, with an electric mixer, whip cream and sugar to stiff peaks. Whip in root beer. Serve on top of pie.
Dark N’ Rooty
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces dark spiced rum
4 ounces Not Your Father’s Root Beer
½ ounce lime juice
Fill a tall glass with ice cubes and pour in the rum, root beer and lime juice. Stir until well chilled. Serve immediately.