Root Beer – 2nd experiment

This is my second try at root beer. My first attempt a year ago didn’t go well, because I used powdered sassafras root, which dominated the flavour and was impossible to remove once the brew was finished – the whole beer had tiny suspended particles of sassafras root in. The other problem with that attempt was that the only fermentable ingredient was molasses, and the finished flavour lacked body. This time, I’ve based my recipe on this one from Instructables. The only differences are that I added sassafras (very important for a genuine root beer), increased the quantity of molasses and reduced the quantity of sugar. The thing that drew me to this recipe was that it includes honey, which should give a depth of flavour that my first attempt lacked.

Ingredients, for 1 litre

1 litre mineral / untreated water, not tap water

1 1/2 tbsp Sarsaparilla Root

1 Cinnamon Stick

4 heaped tbsp Wintergreen Leaf

3cm lump of fresh Ginger Root, roughly chopped

1/2 tbsp Licorice Root

1/2 tbsp Dandelion Root

1/2 Vanilla Pod

100g Honey

80g Molasses

25g Brown Sugar

luminescents.co.uk sell the unusual ones (wintergreen and sassafras). My local health food shop has a really good herb and spice collection, but even they didn’t sell those two. They’re native to North America and for some reason never caught on in the UK.

Yeast & Fermentation - Root beer (in modern terms, at least) is a weakly alcoholic drink along the lines of elderflower champagne or ginger beer. The fermentation step is largely to create fizz rather than create lots of alcohol, so the fermentation will be a single stage one, in a closed bottle, for no more than a week. The resulting brew will probably contain around 0.5% alcohol, but that’s not certain! I’m trying three different methods of fermentation:

  1. Wine yeast, more or less as recommended on Instructables **UPDATE**: do NOT do this. I used 3g of wine yeast per litre, and after 3 days the bottles became very dangerous. I almost lost my hearing and covered an entire room in root beer after opening one. So either do a primary fermentation in an open / airlocked container, use a tiny quantity of yeast, or just rely on natural fermentation.. which is what I tend towards these days! This is a good yeast-based recipe I found afterwards: River Cottage Elderflower Champagne
  2. Honey yeast/bacteria from my wild-brewed mead (which I’ll have to post about sooner or later)
  3. No starter at all, just letting the wild yeast living on the roots do its business. That’s how ‘roots beers’ brewed by hunter gatherers aremade

I’ll post the results here.

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