Root beer is a drink that has been popular in America in some form or another for hundreds of years. The tradition of root beer dates back to America’s early settlers who brewed a form of root beer in America’s colonies. Popularized by Charles Hires at the end of the 17th century, root beer is made all over the US by hundreds of companies. It can even be made by you in the comfort of your own home. This article talks about root beer and how to make it at home.
Brew Your Own
Root beer is surprisingly easy to make and requires only a few ingredients to make something that could be called root beer. Producing something that tastes good, well, that may take a little more practice and experience. Like most anything that is popular, marketing comes in to play. Brewing kits are available that take a lot of the guesswork out of the process and come in a slick package. Root beer extract is available to give the budding brewmeister a reliably consistent flavor. And recipes that detail the exact ingredients to put in to make the favored drink can be found all over the internet.
Buying a Package
For around 30 bucks or a little less one can purchase kits that provide the basics required to make root beer at home. Usually including brown plastic beer-look bottles, some provide everything you need while others require the user to provide their own yeast and sugar. Good for those who want everything spelled out for them step by step. Like many things root beer, the taste is subjective. Some claim it is great, some feel differently. But for 30 bucks it’s not a bad price to pay. Plus you get the cool bottles that can be reused over and over.
Extract Or From Scratch
Whether the choice is made to use root beer extract or to make root beer from scratch, the steps are essentially the same. What is needed before the root beer making venture gets off the ground is not set in stone, but the following would be quite helpful:
Bottles to store the root beer in (plastic not glass because glass can and sometimes does explode. Plastic may explode, but the chances of killing someone are much less than with glass)
Filtered or purified water
Sugar of some kind (sugar, honey, molasses, etc. – they all have their good and bad points. Stick with regular granulated cane sugar to make it easier the first couple of times.)
Yeast of some kind
The ingredients to make the flavor (extract or ingredients from recipe)
That’s it. While the ingredients are fairly simple, fans and aficionados will have their favorites. Some call for the yeast used in making red wine, some say use only the yeast used for making ale, others say any old yeast will do including yeast for making bread. The best thing to do is choose a recipe and follow it exactly. If the results are good, keep on using it or tweaking it a little here and a little there. If the results are not so good, or something different is desired, find another recipe and try that. That’s one of the good things about root beer that harkens back to it’s past – there are so many different recipes because so many people made it. A quick note about extracts and concentrates – they often provide the fastest and easiest root beer making experience. Simply follow the recipe and instructions they provide. Don’t forget that the granddaddy of all root beer, Charles Hires, sold his own extract before his pre-made bottled root beer took off. Root beer extract has a long history, too, just like the drink itself.
As mentioned above, if using extract it is best to follow the instructions on that come with the product. If making root beer from scratch, follow the recipe, but a little more latitude can be given on the actual ingredients. As far as instructions, they are pretty simple. There are two main methods. First one goes like this:
- Using a 2 liter bottle, put in the correct amount of sugar
- Add the yeast
- Shake to distribute it
- Add the extract
- Fill with water, leaving about an inch or so at the top
- Seal it up, rotate it several times to dissolve everything
- Let it sit for 3 days, put it in the refrigerator for at least overnight
- Open carefully and enjoy
The other method is a bit more involved and is designed for larger batches. The instructions are:
- Put a big pot over heat, big enough for 5 gallons of water plus several pounds of sugar
- Put in the water and dissolve the sugar according to the recipe
- Add the flavoring
- Pour into a container that can be covered
- Add the yeast
- Wait 12 hours
- Put into bottles
- Seal and let them sit for 3 days
- Refrigerate and enjoy at your leisure
Recipes using ingredients from scratch are more complex and very according to the recipe. Most involve boiling the ingredients for a period of time and adding that mixture in place of the extract in the above recipes. Remember that the amounts and details of the procedure will be dictated by the individual recipe.
Root beer has a long history in North America. Since the mid to late 90’s it has begun to experience resurgence. Making one’s own root beer can be an interesting experience for those who love root beer and for those who want to try something new. Remember that the fermentation process can and often will produce small amounts of alcohol in root beer, usually 2% or less. Although this is almost negligible, for reasons of health, preference or beliefs, it should be noted to all who will drink it.