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Homebrew Root Beer!

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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.
 
 
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Blastenforte2 months ago

I just found these, so I thought I'd share. If someone tries them, please give a shout out:

Root Beer Recipe Links:
http://nourishedkitchen.com/homemade-root-beer-recipe/
http://www.chow.com/recipes/10681-chow-root-beer
http://wellnessmama.com/11392/homemade-root-beer/

Thanks for the links to these recipes, it's more than the author of this instructable did. I contacted him personally and still got no reply. I wonder if it was not really done at all. Thanks again, good job finding these recipes.

If I felt ambitious enough I would make this for my Cafe.

monkeysinacan3 months ago
Isn't sassafras poisonous and or carcinogenic? Which is why no modern root beer contains it.

Sassafras is not really carcinogenic in reality. When the original study found that it caused cancer they failed to tell that the volume of sassafras taken by the rats was the equivalent of drinking over 50 gallons of root beer at one time to a human. They also failed to mention that there was a higher risk of cancer from alcohol. You can look it up online. The information isn't hard to find but bad info dies hard sometimes. For years people thought tomatoes were poisonous!

lol that does sound like something the FDA would do. Thanks for the info!

As with many things, it's a matter of dosage and may well be affected by species (There are two). Large doses were found to cause liver damage and cancer in rodents. It has been used medicinally by humans for a long time to combat scurvy, rheumatism, and bacterial or fungal infections.

As is typical of the FDA, studies showing that (often ridiculously) large doses cause problems for small rodents is sufficient to get its use banned without further study of the effects on humans.
And I should be more specific: Safrole is the carcinogen. Sassafras with low (almost none) amounts is available.
The FDA banned it from commercial products because it caused cumulative liver damage in rats and various cancers. That said many micro brewers still use it so the risk is up to you.
Blastenforte3 months ago

Even if you have to approximate the amounts of the ingrediants, a recipie would be helpful for those of use who aren't as creative in the kitchen.

prickly vegan3 months ago
1. Where is the recipe?
2. Why use yeast if it is not going to cause the drink to ferment and make bubbles?
I feel like I am missing something. Not sure what the point of home brewing is if you are just going to turn around and use a machine to inject bubbles.
Aside from those points, it's a nice write-up.
BdaSpidey3 months ago
Would you please provide the exact "root" ingredients and the quantities.

Thanks
yes... Recipe please! I want this resting in my fridge ASAP!
looks delicious!

also, did you bottle it in a soda stream bottle and hit the gas? Does it overflow like crazy?

How about boiling it down to make a syrup to use in soda stream?

Curious! and I have a soda stream....
jbogstie3 months ago
Sassafras was banned from Root Beer in 1960 because it is a known carcinogen. Ignoring what the person said about red dyes, sassafras really is carcinogenic. Store bought root beer does not use sassafras like the old recipes do because of the ban. I would strongly recommend not using pure sassafras.
callen19 jbogstie3 months ago
I always chuckle when the 1960 report is cited. Since then more studies have been conducted and, yes, sassafras contains a "known carcinogen" safrole. However, as has been mentioned below/above, the amounts necessary for safrole to cause cancer are enormous. Further, safrole is found in many of the spices we eat including nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper. Interestingly enough these are not regulated ingredients.

For further reading... http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/twelfth/profiles/Safrole.pdf
The testing of Sassafras as a carcinogen was done by feeding enormous amounts to lab animals in a short period of time. This was supposedly because of the limitations of budget and technology of that time. However, since then, this method has been found to be unrealistic because the liver becomes overloaded and unusual by-products are made instead of it being broken down. A few artificial sweeteners (if I remember correctly) such as saccharin and cyclimates have been "pardoned" since this era and testing method. However, the rootbeer industry does not have the budget for such research and the FDA would never fund it because they like having sassafras "illegal". Without a legal food use, it is difficult to ubtain safrole for the manufacture of MDMA/extacy. So instead there are 2 industries that are making substitutions, but neither industry is likely to be any safer now.

Because of this, you will have a hard time finding good sassafras. Your luck will be best in small amounts, if it doesn't cross major political borders, is a low grade form such as bark chips (not oil) and if you are willing to put your name on a list that is monitored by numerous government agencies (like my name is now for this post).
Yes Sassafras is a Carcinogen , But what isn't these days .
An alternative to Sassafras is Acacia and is used as an ingredient in Barq's Brand Root Beer.
Oh and sasparilla can be used as a substitute as well .
ldavis103 months ago
Great article! File spice, which is made from sassafras leaves is available for sale, as is sassafras tea. Either can be used as a source for concentrate. Sassafras root extracts which do not contain safrole or in which the safrole has been removed are permissible, and are still widely used commercially in teas and root beers.
(Source, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sassafras#Culinary_uses)
horphmyre3 months ago
Someone introduced me to the Sassafras root back in the '70s. Initially I made tea, but I got the idea one Saturday afternoon that if we collected enough roots and boiled them and then reduced the "tea" to a concentrate (and added sugar of course) that we could make root beer by simply adding club soda. When we opened the trunk of the car where we had put the bits of root, the aroma had been so intense that we looked forward to sampling the root beer. The end product was a great disappointment. I've taken medicine that tasted better. We finished the club soda with ice and left the concentrate to its own devices. After that, I tried the bottled concentrate. I don't drink a lot of soda any more as I've heard that the acid is not good for the kidneys. But it was fun reading the article.
nutgone3 months ago
We don't have root beer here in the UK, but it's something I've always wanted to try. Do you have the full recipe with amounts of everything? (Unless I missed it I just saw amounts for water & sugars). I'm not even sure I can get all the stuff here, but I'd be willing to try. Think I would chicken out use plastic bottles as well, just in case.
camforman nutgone3 months ago
Dear Nutgone, I have watched a few Europeans drink their first root beer. The beverage is not at all what they expect and they spit it out (leaving me to finish the bottle). Apparently there is a cough remedy that tastes similar (but worse?). Their reaction is how I remember it as a kid, it is an (albeit, often quickly) acquired taste. Similarly, Canadians and Americans don't really care for those licorice candies that are made with ammonium chloride.
nutgone camforman3 months ago
I tried a drink called sarsaparilla(??) once, that wasn't too bad. Over here we have a drink called dandelion & burdock (which is very nice) which I suspect is what "we" expect root beer to taste like.
Think I will give it a try anyway.
As for carcinogens; I'm told cardamom pods (used in Indian cooking) are carcinogenic, but they are still in common use over here, as is aspartame & saccharine (neither of which I ever touch) & countless other things. I'm even told "they" (whoever they are) are now finding animal based fats are actually better for humans than the ridiculous amount of vegetable based fats we now consume. Both my grandmother & great grandmother from my dad's side ate lots of these sorts of things & both lived well into their 90s. Always fry, never grill I say (it tastes better), & sweeten with sugar, not chemicals.
Perhaps I will come back & let you know what I think of root beer (I promise to be nice).
Does your recipe / process make the root beer alcoholic?
John Sphar3 months ago
Nice instructable, but definitely need all the ingredients & quantities specified. I, also make root beer every year with my high school biology classes to demonstrate fermentation. We use plastic water bottles (personal 1/2 liter size, 1 liter and/or 2 liter as well). We remove some water to create displacement space for the sugar & flavor as well as head space for the production of carbon dioxide (see below about "dents"). This is a good visual for the students to see how much sugar is in sodas (http://www.sugarstacks.com/beverages.htm) I use champagne yeast and Zatarains root beer flavor that I get from my local beer/wine supply place. When all the ingredients are combined and we fill the bottles with enough head space for the students to push a big dent in the plastic bottles as they seal the caps tight. We then allow the fermentation to process to proceed in a warm room. After one or two days (maybe more depending on the temperature), the "dents" will pop out and the bottles will become pressurized (firm) indicating that the yeast has produced carbon dioxide. This tells me that the root beer is now "fizzy" since carbon oxide is the primary by-product of the initial fermentation and that the alcoholic fermentation process is starting to produce more alcohol, something I don't want to serve my students in class and primarily because it with ruin the root beer's flavor. At this point, I refrigerate the bottles to arrest the fermentation process stopping the alcohol production. We generally start on a Monday and have root beer floats on Friday! Good luck!
gnu2d23 months ago
Thanks! I can't wait to try your concoction. Another option for carbonation if you don't want to wait several days for fermentation is to dissolve 1 or 2 lbs of dry ice per gallon of root beer. I don't know if it'd work for bottling, but it works great for a party or cookout.
danneauxs3 months ago
Get a Fizz Gizz instead. You are only supposed to fizz water with the sodastream. I made a mess trying to fiz some lemonade.
jheiss3 months ago
Do you know how much of each of these you used?
jlynn313 months ago
Could you publish a list of the ingredients so you don't have to click through every page?
What is the purpose of the yeast? Is it indeed to carbonate the root beer (ie, add the fizz)? I ask because I was under the impression that this was the purpose until we got to Step 11 in which you advocated using a carbonation machine.
ArticAkita3 months ago
you can make root beer from Dandelion roots, I got the information from a Amazon ebook titled: The Ultamate Dandelion cookbook by Kistina Seleskanko & there might be in paperback too I don't know but it said that is where Root beer was origionaly made from? since people were unsure of Sassafrass issues n all ...just trying to be helpful :) Merry Christmas!
fossilmaniac3 months ago
Great project. You gave great directions and I think I will try to make some this Christmas Holiday. Cheers to you and your dad. Peter
LordStDennis3 months ago
Is it the same without artificial flavors & dyes?

Some of the commercial root beer has Red Dye #20 in it which is carcinogenic. Why the Federal Drug Agency (FDA) hasn't reported this is a matter of intense curiosity, as if some Foreign Power is controlling the FDA and allowing poisoned food into the mainstream of things. Look at Ultra-Pasteurized milk for example: the process produces a "half-baked" protein, similar to what causes Mad Cow Disease. Does the FDA think that the same thing won't happen in humans? I won't drink milk anymore because of this. You can't even make decent cheese from the milk - just something that resembles cottage cheese. The milk is destroyed thru the UP process and Nobody seems to care!
MTJimL3 months ago
Now ya gone and made me want root beer. I love that stuff.
lilith793 months ago
I'd vote for this but with no quantities listed this is a useless instructible.
mdeblasi13 months ago
I'm confused about the fizzing step,
isn't it fizzy on its own, from the the yeast?
sdhardie3 months ago
Fantastic instructable! Thanks so much for posting. I've been wanting to try my hand at this for many years.
carlcorn3 months ago
This looks great. I'm going to research ingredients. It's been a few years since I brewed anything and recently I've had the itch to do some. My kids love root beer and this seems like a great way to satisfy everyone in the family.
EEGeek3 months ago
If you want to fizz it with the Soda Stream, wouldn't you need it to be a concentrate instead? My Understanding with the Soda Stream is you can only carbonate water, then add flavoring, not carbonate and end product lest you contaminate the machine? Anyway, cool instructable, going to have to give this a try with the kids!
vfx3 months ago
A true rootbeer aficionado would never use ice. Just like beer, a chilled glass will not dilute the taste.

And I also love that Virgil's is actually brewed, it just is too strong with wintergreen for me.
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