When one starts counting non-alcoholic bears, root beer comes off the top of the head along with ginger and birch ones. A packaged root beer is a sweet carbonated drink and tastes like any other cola. However, when you brew it at home, root beer tastes pretty different from what you’re used to drinking, and in a good way. Before we start discussing how to brew root beer at home, it’ll be interesting to look back at its history.
Charles Hires was the man who first mixed extracts of sassafras, sarsaparilla, and other roots and mixed them with sugar, water, and yeast to brew the first pint of root beer. Charles took his drink to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibitions in 1876, where it got widespread public appreciation and approval.
Today, root beer is consumed by people all over the world. Here, we will discuss how you can brew your own supply of root beer for its taste and benefits (more on it later).
What You’ll Need to Brew Root Beer
Following is the list of equipment and tools you’ll need to brew root beer at home.
- Brew pot/kettle
- Stirring spoon
- Measuring cup
- Thermometer and hydrometer
- Heating source
Pick Your Ingredients
A major part of brewing root beer at home is picking all the roots for their tastes and health benefits. For a regular DIY brew of root beer, these are some root options you can consider.
- Sweet sarsaparilla
- Hoja santa
- Red, black, or Sitka spruce
- Artificial sassafras root bark
- Black cherry
- Wild sarsaparilla
- Dandelion root
- Black/ sweet birch
- Burdock root
All these ingredients are enough to give home-brewed beer the right essence of a healthy root drink. You also need other ingredients to give your DIY root beer more characteristics. For instance, you’ll need yucca root, manioc, soapbark, or cassava to give your brew a foamy head.
You can also spice up your root bear with a range of seasonings. From allspice to nutmeg and fennel to mint, you can add another layer of flavor to your root beer brew by using various herbs and edibles. Here, we’re going to list down all our recommended seasoning ingredients for root beer.
Lastly, more people like to drink their root beer sweet. If you’re also among those root beer enthusiasts, you can use any of these sweeteners.
- Table sugar
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup
Honey and brown sugar are the best option for brewing healthy and sweet root beer.
Brewing Non-Alcoholic Root Beer
Let’s start with the most popular variant of root beer. We’ll share the quantities and process for brewing a batch of around 2 gallons of root beer. We’ll follow the same quantities for other root beer variants as well.
- 5 cups of sassafras or sarsaparilla root bark
- 1 cups molasses
- 1 ounce of vanilla extract
- 5 teaspoons of wintergreen leaf
- 1 pound of sugar or honey
- Around 2.5 gallons of water
Add sassafras root, vanilla extract, the wintergreen, and other optional roots in the water and boil it. Once the mixture reaches the boiling point, cut down the heat and add sugar and molasses and stir it for good 5-10 minutes and leave it to simmer for the next 20-25 minutes on low flame.
Once the wort achieves consistency, switch off the burner and let the wort cool to get it to room temperature. Your non-alcoholic homemade root beer is ready for your consumption. Bottle the beer and refrigerate it to get the best of its taste.
Brewing Carbonated Root Beer
Many of us are more familiar with off-the-shelf carbonated root beer. You can also make it at home. Besides the ingredients and their quantities mentioned above, you’ll need these additional ingredients.
- 3 or 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1 teaspoon of licorice roots
- A snap of nutmeg coriander and allspice
- Neutral ale yeast
The seasoning ingredients we’ve picked here will give carbonated root beer the zing it is known for. You’ll follow the same procedure to brew carbonated root beer. Add all the seasoning ingredients in the beginning while boiling the wort. After cooling down the wort, instead of packing in bottles, add yeast to the mix, stir it, and immediately bottle it.
Take care of these things if you don’t want to mess up your carbonated root beer brewing with bottle bombs.
- Store it in cold places (not freezing) after bottling it
- Don’t use baking yeast
- Prefer plastic bottles over the glass ones
Brewing Alcohol-Based/Hard Root Beer
If you like your root beer hard, you need to brew it with fermentation. Besides the ingredients mentioned in the non-alcoholic root beer recipe, you’ll need these things.
- 5lb of lightly dried malt extract
- 1lb of lactose
- 20oz of sugar
- And Neutral ale yeast
Boil the wort with all these ingredients, let it cool, and then add it to the fermenter with yeast. To ferment ale, you need to keep the root beer wort in the fermenter for two weeks at a constant temperature of 68F. If you’re brewing lager, keep the wort in the fermenter for six weeks at 48F.
Our Final Thoughts
Homemade root beer is free of excessive sugar and all the harmful preservatives used in commercially-made variants. In fact, homemade root beer offers health benefits. For instance, the sarsaparilla root improves the health of the urinary tract. Wintergreen, on the other hand, is good for the digestive system. The other roots and seasoning ingredients used in brewing homemade beer roots add a good amount of antioxidants to your drink. In short, it’s worth it to try home brewing of root beers.