Growing up, my dad was always brewing something. Most of the time his brew pot was full of brown ale or chocolate stout, but occasionally he would pull the step stool up to the counter and we would brew a batch of homemade root beer together. He kept the recipe short and simple (much like my attention span at the time) by working with a bottle of root beer extract and a basic brewing method combine the proper proportions of water, sugar, extract and yeast; bottle; and ferment. This was a far cry from many of his beer recipes, which took the better part of a day to make, but the resulting root beer did the trick for my youthful palate it was my absolute favorite drink.
Now, I wouldn't call myself a root beer fanatic by any means I certainly don’t drink as much of it as I used to but when I have a craving for a glass, I almost always go for the small-batch brands, which are packed with a lot more spice and rich flavor than those made by the larger cola companies. Maybe that’s why, when I finally tasted some of my own root beer, I was disappointed with its relatively boring flavor.
In all honesty, I really shouldn't have expected much from my root beer in the first place. After all, I had been relying on a bottle of grocery store extract for all of the flavor. Curious to see how to go about producing a respectable bottle of homemade root beer, I started researching various recipes. I figured it would be a challenge, but I quickly realized that while my initial recipe was almost effortless, making a batch from scratch didn't require that much effort either. It was time to get out the brew pot again.
Step 1: Establish Roots
In the days before you could buy bottled root beer extract in just about any grocery store in America, the typical root beer recipe started by steeping sassafras root the primary source for the flavor that we recognize in root beer in hot water, then adding sugar and yeast, and allowing the mixture to ferment in bottles. To further enhance the flavor of the beer, additional root barks and twigs such as sarsaparilla, burdock, and birch were also added. While foraging in the woods for these ingredients was once standard practice and still not uncommon even today, I was happy to discover that I could instead find them neatly packaged and ready to use at my local home brew store.