A little more than five years ago, successful entrepreneur and business owner Corey Anderson asked himself, “What do I want to do?” With a few successful businesses holding their own, Corey decided to do something that brought him back to his roots—and in this case, pun intended.
“It was a family tradition to make root beer as a kid,” Corey said as he remembers old family stories of home brew root beer bottles exploding in the house.
With an already successful background in “niche” markets, as he calls them, Corey turned toward making his hobby into a profitable business making root beer.
He initially set out to create a line of root beers called “James Caliber Root Beer,” but put that thought on hold after shadowing a California industry expert who exposed him to the abundant world of craft root beer brands.
Corey instead decided to make an inviting space where anyone from passionate root beer enthusiasts to novice root beer drinkers could sample, purchase, and enjoy a multitude of beers.
In 2010 he opened The Root Beer Store in Redmond by moving an office manager for one of his other companies into a back room, so he could set up shop, displaying various root beers, in the front of the store.
“Someone followed me back into the store after I put out my first sign announcing the opening,” Corey recalled. “From there it became a water cooler sensation.”
The Root Beer Store now contains more than 120 types of root beers, not including other soda varieties, and new flavors arrive every month. Corey has expanded his root beer operation to include four store locations—Lynnwood, Redmond, Puyallup, and Tacoma, with plans for further expansion.
At The Root Beer Store you can stop by for an in-house brew enjoyed in a perfectly frosted mug or pick up one for home. Stores also serve gourmet hot dogs and divine root beer floats.
“I get so excited to see adults, middle-aged men and women, jumping up and down because they’ve found their favorite old soda from childhood,” Corey said with a smile. “It’s not the kind of place where people are unhappy.”
“It makes Disneyland look depressing,” said David Castle, store manager for the Lynnwood location. Though this may be a touch of a stretch, his enthusiasm for root beverages is palpable and contagious.
Those who work at The Root Beer Store are often called “tour guides,” instead of employees. They help customers navigate the plethora of root goodness.
According to Cory and David you need to drink your root beer cold and with no ice for maximum tasting pleasure. David prefers the frosted mug where as Corey likes it straight from the bottle. You can take your pick.
Like the root beer equivalent to a wine sommelier, David advises drinking the beer slowly so you can really taste the roots as you sip. “This stuff unfolds in your mouth as you drink it,” he explained, as he samples the Australian Bundaberg Root Beer.
That’s why sipping slowly is key.
Root beer, which is brewed with a combination of different roots, flavors, and carbonation, hit the stage commercially in 1876, but history traces similar recipes dating back to as early as 1265. Most root beers are made and consumed right here in America.
With hundreds of flavors to choose from, where do you start? Each store hosts a free root beer tasting once a month (dates and times available online) or you can ask store tour guides to help you decide between sweet or spicy, winter green finishes or beers with hints of vanilla and clove.
“Everyday, people ask, ‘How do you make money on root beer?’ It’s one of those things like, ‘Who would have thought?’ I’ve found here is a culture to root beer,” Corey said. “People say, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky.’ No, I have filing cabinets full of unlucky. As an entrepreneur, you just keep trying.”
It’s always inspiring to see, and in this case taste, the evidence of passion taking root and growing. Bottoms up!
20015 Highway 99, Lynnwood
Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Beat the Summer Heat with a Root Beer Float
Tips from The Rootbeer Store’s Corey and David
1. It’s all about the root beer. Pick a gourmet root beer more on the spicy side than sweet. Try Old Red Eye, with its hints of black licorice and dry finish. Too sweet of a root beer will overwhelm the palate.
2. Cheap Vanilla Ice Cream. Though The Root Beer Store ice cream is a house secret, Corey and David suggest the icier and less creamy the ice cream the better for floats. Fancy ice cream, though delicious on its own, overpowers the root beer and makes the float too heavy and less flavorful.
3. Layer it up! Layer ice cream and root beer to ensure equal parts in each sip or bite.
4. Branch Out. “An orange and huckleberry float will change your life,” David said. Don’t be afraid to try other flavors of floats like ginger and molasses. You may just discover a new favorite summer treat.