It's important to try new things. We all get caught up in our normal live-work routines, our weekly do-to lists, our schedules, and calendar reminders. Routine is good, healthy even, but when is the last time you did something for the first time? Now I'm not talking about diving out of a plane or walking on fire - I just mean getting a little outside of your comfort zone; Doing something new to you culinarily is a great way break your routine.
Yes, I have fremented pickles, canned salsa, made ginger ale, even made my own cheese, but last week was my first time home-brewing root beer. As you may recall, my arm was twisted into brewing a batch of root beer for a fundraiser called Rootbeerpallooza (you can still contribute to the cause at Staplehouse's IndieGoGo page).
Jason Dominy (and his wonderful wife and friends) put on an awesome event - though he and I ended up being the only home-brewers for the night. I assume this is because people think home-brewed root beer is hard, akin to sky-diving. I'm here to tell you, it is not.
You can make your own root beer extract or buy a pre-made extract. I used extract from the Gnome Soda Company , which I found at a local home-brew store but you can easily order online. Then you make a concentrate with your extract, sugar, and water. Cool the concentrate, add more water and a little yeast, bottle and wait a few days. Chill throughly to dormant the yeast, and enjoy.
Even easier you could make said root beer concentrate, and add to soda water. You can even carbonate with dried ice, in a soda siphon or with a force carbonator. Or you can take this post as your challenge to try something new and carbonate with yeast and having a truly home-brewed brew.
Home brewed Root Beer
Make 2 1/2 gallons
Fair warning: I bottled in glass, because, well its pretty and I like that. Professional home-brewers (is there such a thing?) strongly advise against this: improperly brewed and stored glass bottles, especially the cheap kind of bottles, can explode. I suggest using empty liter bottles for your first run through. Also do yourself a favor and stash your bottles in a cooler while they carbonate - that way any sugary root beer explosions are contained. Also - you are probably going to have some bottles that geyser out of the bottle, you've been warned.
For the concentrate:
2 packages Gnome Root Beer Extract, approximately 8 ounces*
1 1/2 pounds granulated sugar
1 pound dark brown sugar
1/2 gallon water
Optional flavor augmentation for the concentrate:
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon black cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 gallons of cool water
1/2 teaspoon Champagne yeast
8 plastic liter bottles or 2 gallon jugs + 2 plastic liter bottles
Combine the extract, sugars, and half gallon of water in large sauce pan, add the optional flavor augmentation here if using, and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Meanwhile, measure out the additional 2 gallons of water. Heat 1/2 cup of this water to 100 degrees F. Cool for 5 minutes and add the yeast. Set aside.
Remove the concentrate from the heat and pour off into a larger pot or bucket. Add the remaining 2 gallons cool water and cool the mixture to 75 degrees F.
Add the yeast + water mixture, stir to combine well, and rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Bottle your root beer, leaving at least 2 inches of head space in each bottle. Stash in a cooler and leave at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. The Root Beer is done when your plastic bottles are very hard. Move to the freezer for 2 to 3 hours and then store in the fridge until ready to drink.
For even more root beer fun follow my Rootbeerpalloza board on Pinterest.
*The Gnome Extract makers suggest about 2 ounces of the extract be used for 2 1/2 gallons of root beer. I found I preferred a stronger, more flavorful brew.