Saturday, August 14, 2010

Homemade Root Beer

In researching something else, I ran across this item about Amish selling homemade root beer in farm stands in Lancaster County, PA.

I've been getting into a lot of "remembering" about my younger life, so this brought me back to when we used to make our own root beer.

It isn't really that difficult once you learn how, but it's a bit tricky and involved and you may need to practice a few times.  No, you don't have to go into the woods and dig sassafras roots.  In fact, you shouldn't.  We did have a couple of sassafras trees and the roots, when scratched, did smell like root beer.  But even then (back in the early 80's) the cancer causing properties of sassafras were already known.  So we did what can still be done today-we mail ordered root beer extract from a brewing supply company.

Next step is to gather bottles.  You want very heavy duty bottles, like Champagne bottles or other sparkling wine (unless you like exploding bottles and glass all over your house).  You also need caps, and a capper.  You can get these from brewing supply companies, also.  A teeny bit expensive, but you'll only have to buy the capper once.

The rest of the recipe can be found here (note, when we were making it, there was no internet.  So we followed directions that came with the extract.)  You will see, if you read this, that true root beer gets its carbonation from yeast - but it has very little alcoholic content.  Your children can drink it safely.

What if you don't want to go to the trouble and don't live in Amish country?

In that case, if you have a local brewery, they may well already be making root beer.  It may cost $1.00 or more a 12 oz bottle, but...well, this isn't the supermarket stuff.

Two root beers I have personally sampled (and no, I am not being paid to post this information) are from the Ithaca Beer company in Ithaca, NY and the Millstream Brewing Company in Amana, Iowa.  (Both companies also make ginger beer-not really a beer, but not your supermarket ginger ale, either.  It has a bite!)

(Speaking of the Amana colony in Iowa, that brings back a lot more memories.  One day I'll dig into some of those memories.)

Have you tried to make root beer?  Or have you had the "real thing"?  I'd be curious to know.

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