Nugget of Knowledge: Root Beer

Anti-alcohol groups thought it was beer

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – In the early 1870s, Charles Hires drank a root and herb tea at a country inn on his honeymoon, and decided to market it as a soft drink.

He didn’t feel men would drink tea, so a friend suggested he call it “root beer,” the root being sarsaparilla, but there’s no beer in it.

Hires Root Beer was advertised as soothing to the nerves, refreshing to the brain, beneficial in every way and good for children, too.

Anti-alcohol groups called for a boycott until an independent lab said there was no alcohol in root beer. Still, the name stuck.

Today, wintergreen root is the primary flavor in most root beers, including a bit of vanilla and anise for a licorice taste.

An extract from the yucca plant makes root beer foam. Some companies don’t use a foam, though. Barq’s Root Beer concentrates on carbonation. The company’s president, Rick Hill, said foam is for shaving.

Did you miss an episode of Daybreak or want to revisit a previous ‘Nugget?’ View previous ‘Nugget of Knowledge’ entries on

Do you have an idea for a ‘Nugget of Knowledge?’ send your idea in an email to