Decades have passed since David Oller last enjoyed a Triple AAA Root Beer, a popular local brew that disappeared 40 years ago.
Like most kids growing up in the 1950s, Oller did not get to enjoy soda pop at home; such drinks were rare special treats. For Oller , the end of each baseball game at Horace Mann Elementary came with the hope of going with the team to a Triple AAA Root Beer “Thirst Station” for a frosty mug.
“Triple AAA Root Beer was simply the best I ever had,” said Oller , now a resident in Albuquerque. “A&W was just not the same. I've tried a lot of different brands while traveling and nothing came close to Triple AAA.”
Triple AAA, produced in a plant at NW 13 and Oklahoma Avenue, got its start in the mid-1930s as a group of “thirst station” owners split up from Texas-based Triple XXX Root Beer. The company ceased production in 1974, though old bottles, signs and advertisements are still favorites among collectors.
Justin Thomas, owner of the Bricktown Candy Co., is banking on such fond memories in re-launching the brand with the assistance of descendants of those who created the recipe and oversaw the production of the secret formula.
Creating his own brand of root beer has been an ambition for Thomas since he opened the candy store at 100 E California Ave. in 2009. A visitor to the store suggested reviving Triple AAA Root Beer during one such conversation. After learning the recipe was created by the late Harley Rochau, Thomas searched for descendants with the same last name and came across Rochau's son, Ray, living in northeast Oklahoma. He was then introduced to Ray Rochau's cousin, Max Tuepker, whose father, Gilbert, controlled the laboratory where the recipes were produced.
“We all got together, talked about bringing back Triple AAA, and talked about how we could make that happen,” Thomas said. “And we looked at recipes to bring back not just the root beer but other flavors they had as well.”
The task wouldn't be easy. A key ingredient, sassafras oil, was banned in 1960 by the United States Food and Drug Administration after it was identified as a possible carcinogen.