Hundreds of bottles of soda line tall wooden shelves, with flavors such as maple-bacon, mustard and dirt.
What’s up with that?
Chug’s Root Beer & More is a soda-centric store with lots of fizz.
Counting calories? Try Diet Dang, a low-cal butterscotch cream, to go in your root beer float.
The Phase 2 reopening starts Wednesday at the small shop on Highway 99 near 200th Street SW. Patrons can get a brew on tap and kick back at a table singing “99 bottles of root beer on the wall,” stone-cold sober.
Owner David Castle can name every bottle on the shelf. There are 168 different root beers and about 300 other soda varieties.
He started as an employee at the shop that opened 10 years ago as The Root Beer Store by Corey Anderson, whose three other locations in Redmond, Tacoma and Puyallup have since closed.
Castle bought the Lynnwood store in 2017 and renamed it after his chihuahua pug, Chug, who sometimes comes to work with him.
Shoppers grab an empty cardboard carrier from the barrel to make their own six-packs. Most bottles are $2.49. Combo it up with a hot dog and chips for $5.50. Root beer floats start at $4.99. Starting soon, Uber Eats will deliver the goods to your door.
Gary Schatz of Edmonds recently came in seeking “something out of the ordinary.” He left with two six packs and four hot dogs for $50.61.
Schatz, a first-timer, chose craft root beers and cream sodas. Nothing kinky.
“Keep the caps so you can remember what you like,” Castle told him.
Before COVID, the store had free tastings on Saturdays, which brought people in.
Tax season is good for business. The shop is next to Mr. Tax Man, operated by Mike McKinnon, a former mayor of Lynnwood. People getting their taxes done often stop in for a soda to celebrate or cry over.
If you think there’s nothing romantic about root beer, think again.
Sales of red sodas surge for Valentine’s Day.
On Valentine’s Day in 2017, Castle met Kathryn, the woman he would marry. She was a Texan, fresh out of the Army and new to Washington when she came in to buy root beer.
He and Kathryn have a 15-month-old son, Benjamin.
“We considered naming him Frostie,” Castle said. He might have been joking.
But he’s serious about root beer.
“I never get tired of talking about it,” he said. “I am constantly sampling it to keep up my palate. I’ve tried every single soda in the store.”
The maple-bacon soda is like drinking a doughnut. It’s a hit during tastings.
Castle will stock requests, such as the Buckeye State Scarlet Soda a customer longed for from his college days in Ohio. Growlers and kegs are available for rent with root beer made by Mukilteo’s Diamond Knot Brewing Company.
It’s not easy relying on root beer to pay the rent.
“By the end of 2019 we were essentially done,” Castle said. “We were on the verge of closing down.”
He needed an investor. A customer, Shawn Hurley, stepped forward to keep the doors open.
“I like the choice, this kind of variety and things that aren’t alcohol,” said Hurley, who works in software. “I wanted to make sure we could keep this.”
The plan was to move to a bigger location and add pizza to the menu.
“And then the world ended,” Castle said, referring to the pandemic. “But here we are. We are kind of figuring it out as we go, as things are building back up again.”
Root teas go centuries back. Root beer as a soda started in the 1870s when Pennsylvania druggist Charles Hires bottled it up as an alternative for the beer-guzzling miners — deliberately keeping beer in the name. During Prohibition, it helped breweries stay afloat.
Root beer stands popped up. A&W has locations worldwide. Hires Root Beer is still on the market and owned by beverage giant Keurig Dr. Pepper. Breweries make root beer with and without alcohol.
Root Beer Kush is a cannabis strain that a Leafly reviewer described as “ridiculously dank, though unbelievably smooth, bud will get you incredibly high.” Another said, “Each toke has a fantastic root beer finish taste. When smoking this, all of my saliva tasted like root beer. It was cool.”
Root beer as a drink has not caught on everywhere. In mainland Japan, it’s no bubble tea.
A root beer taste test was done in Tokyo by Yuta Aoki, who interviews random people for his YouTube show, “That Japanese Man Yuta.”
People said it tasted like medicine, mouthwash, pain relief pads and “the stuff you put on when you get bitten by a mosquito.”
One taster said: “The first time I tried I couldn’t believe humans drink it.”
Andrea Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.
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