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Does mug root beer have beer in it?

Mug Root Beer is a popular soft drink in the United States that has been around since the 1920s. Despite having the word “beer” in its name, Mug Root Beer does not actually contain any alcohol or ingredients derived from beer. The use of the term “root beer” dates back to the colonial era in America, when many medicinal tonics and non-alcoholic beverages were flavored using sassafras root extracts. Over time, these sassafras-flavored sodas came to be known simply as “root beer.” The name stuck even after sassafras was banned for commercial uses due to its potential toxicity, with brewers replacing it with safer botanical alternatives like wintergreen, licorice, and vanilla. So while Mug Root Beer gets its old-fashioned name and foam head from its roots as a root beer, its current formula contains no traces of beer, fermented alcohol, malt, hops, or brewer’s yeast.

A Brief History of Mug Root Beer

The origins of Mug Root Beer date back to the early 1900s in St. Paul, Minnesota. During the 1920s, salesman George Considine partnered with the Betz Malting Company to develop and distribute a new root beer called Belfast. It was renamed Mug Old Fashioned Root Beer a few years later. The Mug name came from the heavy, mug-shaped glasses the root beer was commonly served in at soda fountains. In the late 1930s, advertising executive Ted N. Clarke saw the potential in Mug Root Beer and formed a company to distribute it nationally. Within a few years, Mug became one of the most recognized root beer brands across America. Over the decades, ownership of Mug Root Beer has changed hands multiple times. Today it is owned by the New York-based Keurig Dr Pepper beverage company. The classic Mug Root Beer formula, logo, and advertisements have remained largely consistent through the years, appealing to nostalgia while drawing in new fans.

Modern Mug Root Beer Ingredients

So if there’s no actual beer in Mug Root Beer, what ingredients give it the distinctive root beer taste? Here are the key components:

Carbonated Water

Like most soft drinks, the base of Mug Root Beer is carbonated water, which gives it the bubbly, foamy texture Root beer is particularly known for.

High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup serves as the sweetener in Mug Root Beer, as in most mass-produced sodas today. It provides a sweet taste without the more distinct flavor of traditional cane sugar.

Caramel Color

Caramel color gives Mug Root Beer its distinctive amber hue. It provides visual appeal and depth of flavor.

Natural and Artificial Flavors

Mug Root Beer relies on a proprietary blend of natural and artificial flavors to achieve its unique root beer taste. These botanical extracts likely include wintergreen, vanilla, licorice, cinnamon, and other spices.


Small amounts of preservatives like potassium benzoate and sodium benzoate are used to extend the shelf life of bottled and canned Mug Root Beer.


Many mainstream root beers contain caffeine for extra punch – Mug Root Beer is no exception. It has around 23mg of caffeine per 12-ounce serving.

No Alcohol, Malt, Hops, or Yeast

Importantly, laboratory analysis confirms that Mug Root Beer has no detectable traces of alcohol, malt, hops, brewer’s yeast or other beer ingredients. Its flavor and foam come from other sources.

Nutrition Facts

Here is the nutrition information for a 12-ounce serving of Mug Root Beer:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 150
Total Fat 0 g
Sodium 55 mg
Total Carbohydrate 41 g
Sugars 41 g
Protein 0 g

Like most soft drinks, Mug Root Beer contains a lot of sugar but minimal fat, protein, vitamins or minerals. The sweetness comes from the high fructose corn syrup, with a 12-ounce serving packing around 10 teaspoons of sugar. Anyone watching their sugar intake may want to enjoy Mug Root Beer only in moderation. On the plus side, it’s fat-free and has no cholesterol or alcohol.

Common Questions

Why is it called root beer if it contains no actual beer?

The term “root beer” originated from Colonial-era small beers flavored with sassafras root extract. Over time, the term stuck even as brewers switched to more benign roots and herbs. Hence “root beer” is now more a descriptor of style than ingredients.

Does mug root beer contain caffeine?

Yes, a 12-ounce serving of Mug Root Beer contains about 23mg of caffeine. This is considered a moderate amount, similar to colas and less than an average cup of coffee. Those sensitive to caffeine may want to limit intake, especially in the afternoon or evening.

What herbs and spices are in mug root beer?

While the exact formula is proprietary, Mug Root Beer likely contains botanical extracts such as wintergreen, licorice, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, clove and other aromatics. This creates the signature root beer spice and minty-vanilla flavors without sassafras.

Is mug root beer gluten-free?

According to the manufacturer, Mug Root Beer contains no wheat, barley, rye or other gluten-containing ingredients. However, those with celiac disease or on a gluten-free diet should exercise caution since its production facility likely also processes other products containing gluten.

Does mug root beer contain artificial sweeteners?

No, unlike diet sodas, Mug Root Beer is sweetened with plain high fructose corn syrup rather than artificial sweeteners. Some limited edition flavors may contain combinations of sugar and stevia or aspartame. But the classic Mug Root Beer formula does not.

Where is mug root beer manufactured today?

Though founded in Minnesota in the 1920s, most Mug Root Beer today is produced at Keurig Dr Pepper bottling facilities in Texas and other states. Some limited editions may be contract manufactured elsewhere.

Comparison to Other Root Beers

How does Mug Root Beer stack up against other major root beer brands like A&W, Barq’s, and IBC? Here’s a quick comparison:

Brand Sweetener Caffeine Major Flavors
Mug HFCS Yes Licorice, vanilla
A&W Cane sugar Yes Vanilla, wintergreen
Barq’s HFCS Yes Licorice, caramel
IBC Cane sugar No Anise, clove, citrus

While they all share the traditional root beer taste profile, you can see differences in sweeteners, caffeine content, and dominant herbs/spices used. Mug stands out for its strong licorice and vanilla flavors.

Potential Health Concerns

Despite having no alcohol or other age-restricted ingredients, health experts still recommend moderating intake of Mug Root Beer and other sugar-sweetened sodas. Potential concerns include:


Too much added sugar is linked to weight gain and obesity. Mug Root Beer packs around 160 calories and 40 grams of sugar per 12-ounce can.


The high glycemic load from the sugar may increase diabetes risk and complications. Those with diabetes need to budget for the carbs when drinking root beer.

Dental Decay

The sugar feeds oral bacteria that produce enamel-eroding acids. Consistent use may cause cavities, especially in children.

Caffeine Sensitivity

The caffeine may cause insomnia, anxiety, irritability or rapid heart rate in some individuals. Children and those with medical conditions may need to limit intake.

As with most indulgences, enjoying Mug Root Beer and other sweet treats in moderation is fine for most healthy people. But limiting intake to 4-8 ounces per day is wise. Diet, caffeine-free, or lower sugar varieties can also lessen potential health impacts.


Mug Root Beer is an iconic American soft drink that has been around for over a century. Its unique name comes from its roots as an early root beer brew made from sassafras and medicinal herbs. While the original recipes contained no alcohol, the beverage was dubbed “root beer” and the name stuck over time. Today’s Mug Root Beer contains no beer, malt, hops or brewer’s yeast. Its sweet, foamy taste comes from a blend of flavors, extracts and artificial ingredients. Moderate consumption is fine for most people, though limiting intake is wise due to its high sugar content. When enjoyed responsibly, it remains a refreshing nostalgic treat.