Rider Root Beer: Get It While It’s Cold

Students toast their release of their new concoction at the unveiling of Rider Root Beer.

Students toast their release of their new concoction at the unveiling of Rider Root Beer.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Rider Root Beer.

But only a wee sip to whet your whistle. A full 32 oz. “growler” will cost you a few bucks with proceeds going to the Roosevelt High School art and science departments.

Let’s back up a bit.

A couple of years ago an AP science teacher at Roosevelt High learned that the father of one of his students owned a local craft brewery. That got him to thinking about all of the STEM stuff involved in concocting and marketing a product line. A class moonshining project was out of the question, but what if AP biology and chemistry students were assigned to produce a gallon of root beer?

The rough drafts weren’t very good, but science is nothing if not an exercise in trial and error. The quest continued and yesterday, finally, Rider Root Beer ’16, a school-spirited vintage that rides not at all roughly on the gullet, was formally launched in ceremonies on the school’s front porch, just in time for the grad party circuit.

The brainchild of AP Biology and AP Chemistry teachers Eryn Whigham and Kate Galligan soon spread to other departments. The project became a cross-curricular colossus that involved business/entrepreneurship students and art students working in collaboration with community partners.  John Martin is the owner and founder of Confluence Brewing Company and a Roosevelt parent who agreed to work with the Roosevelt team to bring their assignment to market. Confluence’s marketing and advertising firm, 818 – A Tiny Design Empire, also lent expertise in brand and logo development.

The only ingredient that had been missing from the secret recipe was ballyhoo and plenty of that was included in the launch. The school’s victory bell rang out, the drumline beat a snappy fanfare and a gospel choir belted the national anthem. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tom Ahart was present and Roosevelt principal Kevin Biggs made a point of thanking him for encouraging ambitious projects like the one being celebrated.

Carrie Rankin is the Assistant Director for Development for the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. Speaking on yesterday’s program she used the term “edunomics” in reference to partnerships between schools and private sector business like the ones that emerged during the course of this project. It’s a good way to describe this confluence of capitalism and high school chemistry – edunomics.

“The first batch is 850 bottles,” said Biggs. “If sales go well and we receive quality feedback, there may be more to come.  A few local restaurants are also interested in tapping it for us.”

If sales at Thursday’s launch are any indication there might be more demand than this initial supply can satisfy. Sales appeared to be quite brisk.

Multiple classes of students have participated in tweaking the tasty potion’s formula until it was just right. All of them were listed on the event program, including those who graduated before the finished product was finished. Some of them were back for the launch, as was Whigham who no longer teaches at Roosevelt. Key students who carried the project across the finish line and took it from experiment to enterprise include Anna Owenson, who designed RRB’s label and logo, and Henry Gunderson and Olive Elwell who teamed up on the marketing and promo campaign. Neighbors of Gunderson who are familiar with the lemonade stands and window-washing services he and his brothers have partnered in are not surprised by his central role in creating a community thirst for what has to be considered a strange brew indeed. Think of it: Roosevelt High School; Home of the Roughriders – and root beer, fresh from the chem lab!

Video of Roosevelt’s Rider Root Beer

Photos of Roosevelt’s Rider Root Beer

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