Root beer is a wholly American drink because colonists were the first to make it. If you want to believe this, then Charles Hires reintroduced it to America via the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. He discovered a way to mass-produce them, releasing Hires Root Tea. He likely changed the name from tea to beer to apply to the working class. Did you know that authentic Root beer is from about 16 roots and herbs? The primary ingredient was sassafras. Sassafras came to be known as a carcinogen in1960, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned its use. Root beer accounts for three percent of America’s soft drink market. The number one spot for best-selling root beer is A&W. There is a distilled version of root beer too.
DIY Root Beer Recipe
- 1 gallon filtered water, divided
- 1 tablespoon sarsaparilla root bark
- 1 tablespoon sassafras root bark
- 1 tablespoon birch bark
- 3 star anise pods
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed ginger
- 4 sprigs chocolate mint
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/8 teaspoon ale yeast
Sassafras root bark, birch bark and sarsaparilla root bark are available at some homebrew, herb shops and online. Ale yeast can be found at homebrew shops, or online. Home-brewed root beer has a slight alcoholic content (around 1%). If chocolate mint is unavailable to you, substitute spearmint. Be sure to sanitize the plastic bottles before use.
- Combine 2 quarts water, sassafras, sarsaparilla, birch, mint, star anise, ginger, and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let steep for 2 hours.
- Strain liquid through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into large pot. Add remaining 2 quarts water along with the brown sugar and molasses. Stir until mixture is integrated, then cover.
- Let cool to 75°F, then stir in yeast and let it sit for 15 minutes. Fill plastic bottles with mixture, leaving 2 inches of space at top. Screw-on caps. Keep bottles at room temperature for 36 hours, then open a bottle slowly and carefully to see if it is carbonated enough. If it is, then go on to step 4. If not, reseal the bottle and let rest for another 12 to 24 hours until desired carbonation is reached.
- Place bottles in the refrigerator for 2 days before drinking. You can store refrigerated root beer for about one month.