First root beer

Like John Pemberton, inventor of the Coca Cola drink, Charles Hires was a pharmacist working on a stimulating alternative to alcohol that was increasingly falling out of favor (Hires’ career predated the Prohibition by several decades, but the temperance stirrings were already there.) A number of stories exist for his invention of root beer: most of them agree that he was inspired by a taste of a herbal mixture, either in pie or drink form. He was so enthused with the recipe that he started working on recreating it at home.

On this day, June 9th, in 1869 the first bottle of Hires Root Beer was sold at his drugstore in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Charles Hires’ gave his root beer beverage a national spotlight at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial exhibition. There was nothing alcoholic about it, but he figured that his rather “wet” Cumberland county would prefer a drink called beer to a herbal tea. Hires Root Beer is still widely available, making it the oldest continuously-marketed brand of any kind of soft drink.