FORBIDDEN ROOT BOTANIC BEER
This project is very different from 5 Rabbit, but no less focused and unique. Founder and “Rootmaster” Robert Finkel came to me with an obsession to create root beer flavored beer—and NOT a soda with alcohol. We started working on the formula and at the same time talking about the bigger idea of which the root beer would be a part. We hit upon the notion of “botanic” beer, a long lost precursor to sodas that was popular in England and the US until modern artificially carbonated sodas took hold. By 1900, it was in steep decline.
Throughout the long history of beer, hops are a relative newcomer ingredient, dominating only in the most recent of the last 10 or more millennia. While we have nothing against hops and often try to blend their flavors with other botanicals, we think it’s a shame to not make use of the full toolkit of flavors with which nature has provided us.
We make three full-time beers currently. The namesake is the root beer, flavored with over twenty natural extracts. Recipe development took two years of nearly constant work. Root beer originated with sassafras, an aromatic root used by Native Americans as a tonic. Unfortunately its major flavor component, safrole, is suspected to be carcinogenic and has been banned from food and drink in North America since about 1960. As a result, our formula (like all modern root beers) relies on vanilla and wintergreen as the cornerstones and fills out with many other botanicals including cassia, basil, Peru Balsam and sandalwood. We found it very challenging to make the product taste both like beer and root beer, but ultimately achieved our desired flavor profile in Forbidden Root.
Sublime Ginger is a light and refreshing wheat ale with two kinds of ginger and key lime juice. We also use two botanicals: Australian lemon myrtle adds a clean lemon-drop aroma and South African honey bush adds a deeply fruity background.
WPA is a wildflower pale ale. To its generous Citra and Mandarina Bavaria hop aroma, we add marigold, elderflower and sweet osmanthus to twist the hop nose in a more floral direction.
We have plans for an ongoing series of chocolate beers. The first of these includes West African chocolate, pecans and magnolia blossoms. We also have a lineup of honey-focused beers in development.
We are looking forward to our brewpub opening, as that offers us more opportunity to brew different beers and directly observe people’s reactions to them. In addition, we’re planning a lot of interesting embellishments, like flavoring elixirs, house-made sodas and cocktail bitters. The brewpub building itself was built in 1909 as a movie theater. A few bits of its former glory remain and we’re preserving as many lovely old architectural details as we can.