At age 12 he worked as a drugstore boy. When he was 16 he moved to Philadelphia and worked in a pharmacy. He saved until he had nearly $400, when he started his own drugstore.
Some say[weasel words] Hires learned about root beer on his honeymoon in New Jersey where the woman who ran his honeymoon hotel served a tisane known as "root tea" made from roots. According to some stories Hires thought that "root beer" would be more appealing to the working class. Originally, Hires packaged the mixture in boxes and sold it to housewives and soda fountains. They needed to mix in water, sugar, and yeast.
The drink was slow to catch on, but the Reverend Dr. Russell Conwell persuaded Hires to present his product at the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. To make it stand out, he called his drink "The Temperance Drink" and "the greatest health giving beverage in the world". Hires was active in the temperance movement, and it is believed that he wanted root beer to be an alternative to alcohol.