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Anheuser-Busch Gets Into the Boozy Root Beer Game

Not Your Father's Root Beer has a new competitor.

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Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

The boozy root beer trend is spreading like wildfire, and Anheuser-Busch is aiming to claim a slice of the market. Today the beer giant launches Best Damn Root Beer nationwide as the first product in its new Best Damn Brewing sub-brand, according to USA Today.

At 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, Anheuser-Busch's hard root beer is just marginally stronger than a can of Bud and packs slightly less of a punch than its biggest competitor — Not Your Father's Root Beer, a craft brew that was recently acquired by Pabst. "It smells, it looks, and it tastes like the root beer flavor you know and love, but in an adult version," says Best Damn Brewing brand director Kathy Sattler. Analysts predict that this is only the tip of the iceberg for the alternative beer flavor market: The number of hard soda options is expected to rise significantly in 2016, with sales doubling.

Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch is in the midst of a $106 billion merger with SABMiller. If successful, the resulting mega-conglomerate will control approximately 30 percent of the global beer market and nearly 75 percent of the American market. Still, the companies face governmental hurdles. U.S. lawmakers currently reviewing the deal have expressed concerns that such a merger could harm the craft beer industry, and a group of craft beer fans have filed an anti-trust lawsuit in an attempt to halt the merger.