MILWAUKEE — Sprecher Brewing Co. is well known both for its award-winning craft beers and its gourmet root beer. So it was perhaps inevitable that it would combine those two beverages.

The Glendale-based company has done just that with the release of its newest product, Hard Root Beer, which will hit the shelves in Madison and Milwaukee late next week.

“We’ve had people requesting us to do something like this for years,” said Sprecher president Jeff Hamilton. “We’re pretty well known for our root beer, and we’ve fooled around for a couple years trying to come up with an adult version, and I think we’ve hit it here.”

The new fermented Hard Root Beer has the flavor characteristics of the non-alcoholic root beer, melded with bourbon and oak flavors, Hamilton said.

But the company has gone to great lengths to make sure there’s no confusing the two root beers.

“We are being very cautious to make sure that there is a distinction between our regular root beer and this rather adult version,” he said. “We’ve made sure the bottle looks completely different than our root beer bottle. It’s a different size, and the labels look different.”

The Hard Root Beer, which contains 5 percent alcohol by volume, is packaged in 12-ounce bottles with a suggested retail price of $5 per four-pack. It will be available just in Madison and Milwaukee as test markets before the company goes into large-scale production. It also will be available at all three Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub locations in Wisconsin Dells, Madison and Lake Geneva.

Hamilton sees Hard Root Beer becoming a significant part of Sprecher’s business, as it creates a niche alongside hard lemonades and similar beverages that have grown in popularity in recent years.

“Given the fact that we’re kind of known for root beer and we’re also a brewery and the popularity of these types of drinks now, we think it will be a major line for us,” Hamilton said. “From what we know this is probably the first real fermented hard root beer that has come out, at least in any kind of quantities.”

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