Flannestad Ginger Beer

Well, since I was making Root Beer, I figured I might as well make Beer from other roots…

Ginger Root.

Ginger Root.

Flannestad Ginger Beer.

5 oz Young Ginger, peeled and roughly sliced.
3/4 cup Washed Raw Sugar.
1 quart Water.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast.*

METHOD: Bloom yeast in lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bring water, sugar and half of the ginger to simmer. Add remaining ginger and roughly puree in blender. Pour through cheesecloth to filter. (I use a ricer to press out as much liquid as possible.) Chill to lukewarm. Add to yeast, seal tightly, and place in a warm dark place overnight.

Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, allowing the yeast to settle.

Wow, is that good! Surprisingly dry, sharp, complex, and floral. Definitely the best ginger beer I’ve ever tried. Upon trying it, Mrs Flannestad immediately asked me to double the batch and make it again.

Ginger Beer.

Ginger Beer.

*Yeast plus sugar and water equals Carbon Dioxide and alcohol. In general, stopping the active fermentation at this early a point, the alcohol levels should be very low.

Jackson Hole Buckin’ Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 20

Jackson Hole Root Beer.

Jackson Hole Root Beer.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Quillaia Extract, Caramel Color, Red #40, Citric Acid, and Sodium Benzoate (To Preserve Flavor).

Yow, quite a shock to go back to commercial Root Beer after mostly drinking home-made for a few days.

“We’re probably most proud of our multiple Award-Winning Jackson Hole Soda Co.”Buckin’ Rootbeer” – the taste that won the West! Made with real sugar, premium natural flavorings, and batch-brewed to ensure the highest quality, our Rootbeer is made with care and attention to detail that reminds folks of the rich, heady Rootbeer Grandma used to make. Some folks enjoy our Buckin’ Rootbeer so much, they buy it by the keg. We’ve even heard of one little Buckaroo that loves Buckin’ Rootbeer on his pancakes!

“Recipe Ideas: Excellent with BBQ spare ribs, pulled-pork, hamburgers, pizza and everything else! The absolute BEST Rootbeer ever created for Rootbeer Floats. (Don’t believe it? Give it a try!)”

I struggle to find anything other than Wintergreen in this Root Beer, it’s a full on Wintergreen bomb. I get some vanilla and other flavors later, but mostly in after-taste.

The folks at the Fizzary said this was a favorite among many of their Root Beer buying customers. I guess Wintergreen is popular with the kids. To me, it’s too much.

3 1/2 Barrels out of 5.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.2

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 19

Not entirely pleased with the last batch of Root Beer Syrup, have made some adjustments.

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Flannestad Root Beer v1.2

Roots:

2 tsp Sarsaparilla Root, Jamaican
2 tsp Sassafras Root Bark*
2 tsp Wintergreen
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, Dry
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, sliced fresh
1/2 tsp Juniper Berries, crushed
1/2 tsp American Spikenard
1/2 tsp Dandelion Root, Roasted
1/2 tsp Licorice Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root, Honey Roasted
1/2 Vanilla Bean, Split

Herbs:

1/2 tsp Horehound
1/2 tsp Cascade Hops
1/2 tsp Yerba Mate

Sweetener:
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup (Grade B)
1 Cup Washed Raw Sugar
1 TBSP Blackstrap Molasses

METHOD: Bring 2 Cups of Water to a boil. Add Roots and simmer for 20 mins. Turn off heat and add herbs. Steep for another 20 mins. Strain out solids. Stir in Molasses and Washed Raw Sugar, cool, and keep refrigerated. Makes a 3 cups of Syrup. To serve, mix syrup to taste with soda water.

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This is much closer to what I imagine as Root Beer, the overwhelming Molasses replaced with the mellower sweetening of Maple Syrup. Still, more bitter and much more herbal than modern commercial Root Beer.

Might have to get the smoker out, after all.

*Blah, blah, Sassafras is not FDA GRAS, as it causes liver cancer in rats after they’ve been given high doses of pure sassafras oil intravenously for about a year. I’m amazed the rats lived that long, with that high a dose of anything, but use at your own risk. Thus, while no one has ever correlated Sassafras, Gumbo File, or Root Beer with Liver cancer in humans, I’d try to avoid shooting up with it. I also wouldn’t give it to kids, but they probably wouldn’t like this complex concoction in any case.

Home Fermented Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 18

I recently experimented with home brewed Root Beer, Flannestad Root Beer, but I didn’t quite follow it to its logical extension.

For some reason, while I’ve done a lot of infusions, I’ve never tried fermenting anything (except bread) at home. I’ve never even made home fermented ginger beer.

However, when Charles Hires first created his Root Beer Dry Mix and Syrup in the late 1800s, he expected people to be able to ferment it at home.

I reproduce his instructions here from a booklet circa 1892:

Recipe and Directions for Making Root Beer

Take Contents of Bottle. 4 Pounds of Sugar (granulated is preferable).
5 Gallons of Fresh Water (preferably luke-warm).
Half-Pint of fresh yeast, or half cake of fresh compressed yeast.
When making in cool weather, double the quantity of yeast is used.

The Way to Do It:

Dissolve the sugar thoroughly in the water, then add the Root Beer Extract and the yeast. (If cake yeast be used, it should first be dissolved in a little cold water, then it will mix more readily with the Beer.) Stir until thoroughly mixed, and bottle in strong bottles or jugs at once, corking and tying the corks securely. Then be sure and set in a warm place for several hours, so that it can become effervescent. (If set in a cool place when first made the yeast becomes chilled and cannot work.) It will be ready to drink after being bottled in ten or twelve hours, but will open more effervescingly if allowed to stand for three or four days. After the Beer has become effervescent, it should then be set in a cool place of even temperature. Before opening the bottle place it on ice, or in a cold place, for a short time, when it will be sparkling and delicious.

To make the Beer more cheaply, molasses or common sugar may be used to sweeten it.

A very pleasant drink may be made for immediate use by adding two teasponfuls of the Extract to a quart of water, sweetening it with granulated sugar to suit the taste, then beat half the white of an egg, and mix together.

NOTE. –Occasionally parties write us that they have tried to make the Root Beer, and while it is very good, it does not evervesce, or pop, when it is opened.

Now, when a case of this kind happens, we know that there is something wrong in the making of it. Either the yeast was not good, or else the Beer, when made, was placed in the cellar, or in a cool place, where it became chilled and could not ferment.

A woman in making bread is always very careful that the dough does not become chilled, so sets it in a warm place to insure its rising and becoming light. So it is with our Root Beer, warmth is essential to life. If this simple fact is borne in mind no one will ever fail in making our Root Beer to have it delicious and Sparkling.

When we say “fresh compressed yeast,” we mean the small square cake yeast that is sold fresh every day in most of the prominent towns of the United States at two cents a cake. When only the dry cake yeast can be had, a whole cake should be used. In fact, our experience has been that very little of the dry cake yeast sold is good for anything; we therefore prefer to use good fresh baker’s yeast, or fresh compressed yeast.

If these simple hints are carefully borne in mine the Root Beer is very little trouble to make successfully.

When we say “yeast” we do not mean Baking Powder.

The Charles E. Hires Co.,
Sole Manufacturers,
Philadelphia, PA

Well, right, then. If late 19th Century home makers can do that, so can I.

I decided to try and turn my sweetened Root Beer syrup into a sparkling beverage.

I proofed a teaspoon of active dry yeast with warm water and a teaspoon of sugar in the bottom of a clean quart plastic soft drink bottle. When the yeast was active, I added about a cup of my Flannestad Root Beer Syrup, then filled with lukewarm water. I let this sit in a warm cool place overnight. Then in the morning, I placed it in the fridge to chill.

I may have used too much yeast.

Mrs. Flannestad was surprised how much the beverage reminded her of real Beer. I was pleased that the yeasts had consumed some of the sugars, leaving it a slightly dryer beverage.

The Fizzary

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 17

Fizzary SF.

Fizzary SF.

Taylor’s makes a line of Mate based soft-drinks, but about 6 months ago they opened a retail space specializing in Candy and Fizzy Lifting Drinks.

Gaseosas y Dulces.

Gaseosas y Dulces.

AKA Gaseosas y Dulces.

Many Root Beers.

Many Root Beers.

And a fine selection of Root Beers, do they have. I scored Root Beers from Goose Island, Jackson Hole Soda, Kutztown, and, last but not least, 3 Dachshunds. Expect reviews of those in the next week, and more Root Beer from the Fizzary to follow.

The Fizzary, An Urban Menagerie of Soda

“Join our campaign to create a hands-on botanical brewery & soda wonderland in San Francisco, CA Plans are to expand our retail showroom and introduce a beverage museum. We also plan to create an unparalleled craft beverage incubator for the budding brewmaster and a delicious stop over for the parched adventurer! To receive campaign and contribution updates, as well as sneak peeks of the premiums you will be awared, simply drop us an email and you’ll receive an auto-reply with more information. We look forward to you joining our fizzy collective…Cheers!”

We’re OPEN! Tuesday-Sunday 11:45 am – 7:00 PM

2949 MISSION ST, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94110

ph: 1-877-368-4608

Flannestad Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 16

Starting from this Root Beer recipe, which is claimed to date from the mid-1800s or earlier:

“Gather a quantity of hops and roots of burdock, yellow dock, sarsaparilla,
dandelion, and spikenard. Dry them thoroughly, then chip ½ ounce of each.
Pour over this mixture a gallon of water and boil it hard for twenty minute
and strain while hot, then add ten drops each of the oils of spruce and
sassafras well mixed. When lukewarm, stir in two-thirds pint of molasses
and 3 tablespoons of jug yeast. Mix well. Let stand in a stone
crock, covered with a cloth, in a warm place for two hours. Bottle. Cork
bottles well and store on a cold cellar floor.”

And Charles Hires’ Ingredients:

Birch Bark – United States, New England
Chirreta – India
Dog Grass – Germany
Ginger – Africa
Ginger – China
Ginger – Jamaica
Hires special plant
Hops – United States, Northwest
Juniper Berries – Italy
Licorice – Spain
Licorice – Russia
Sarsaparilla – Honduras
Sugar – Cuba
Vanilla – Mexico
Wintergreen – United States, North Carolina
Yerba Mate – Brazil

Root Beer Ingredients

Root Beer Ingredients

Flannestad Root Beer Syrup, v.1

INGREDIENTS:

Roots:

1 tsp Sarsaparilla Root, Jamaican
1 tsp Sassafras Root Bark*
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, Dry
1/2 tsp Ginger Root, sliced fresh
1/2 tsp Juniper Berries, crushed
1/2 tsp American Spikenard
1/2 tsp Dandelion Root, Roasted
1/2 tsp Licorice Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root, Honey Roasted
1/3 Vanilla Bean, Split

Herbs:

1 tsp Wintergreen
1/2 tsp Horehound
1/2 tsp Cascade Hops
1/2 tsp Yerba Mate

1/2 Cup Molasses
1 1/2 Cup Washed Raw Sugar

Root Beer Brewing.

Root Beer Brewing.


METHOD: Bring 2 Cups of Water to a boil. Add Roots and simmer for 20 mins. Turn off heat and add herbs. Steep for another 20 mins. Strain out solids. Stir in Molasses and Washed Raw Sugar, cool, and keep refrigerated. Makes a 3 cups of Syrup. To serve, mix syrup to taste with soda water.

Root Beer.

Root Beer.

My initial thought is that the Molasses flavor is too strong, kind of overwhelms everything else in the mix. Definitely more bitter than any commercial Root Beer I’ve ever tried, and more herbal. A good place to start, but I don’t think anyone trying it would recognize it as Root Beer. For v2.0, I think I need to double the Sarsaparilla, Sassafras, and Wintergreen. Also, a little too sweet.

Might have to get the smoker out, after all.

*Blah, blah, Sassafras is not FDA GRAS, as it causes liver cancer in rats after they’ve been given high doses of pure sassafras oil intravenously for about a year. I’m amazed the rats lived that long, with that high a dose of anything, but use at your own risk. Thus, while no one has ever correlated Sassafras, Gumbo File, or Root Beer with Liver cancer in humans, I’d try to avoid shooting up with it. I also wouldn’t give it to kids, but they probably wouldn’t like this complex concoction in any case.

Rating the Roots

This is basically how I view my Barrel based Root Beer rating system:

5 Barrels: Exceptional. If you like Root Beer at all, or even beverages, you should try this.
4 Barrels: Very Good, solid Root Beer. If you like Root Beer, you will probably like this.
3 Barrels: Flawed, but interesting.
2 Barrels: I probably wouldn’t spend my own money on this Root Beer again.
1 Barrel: I would turn this down, if someone offered it to me for free.

Dang! Butterscotch Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 15

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In Full: Dang! That’s Good Butterscotch Root Beer

INGREDIENTS: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Citric Acid, and Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness).

I had enjoyed the Caramelized Flavors in Wade’s, so I had some small hope that this wouldn’t be horrible. After all, Butterscotch is basically just Caramel.

The nose is all about the Butterscotch, as are the initial flavors. After that, it sort of calms down to become a more or less normal, and fairly tasty, Root Beer. Then, unfortunately, you have to smell it again to take another sip. And then you probably burp and smell it again. By the end, I was really wishing they had left the Butterscotch out altogether.

2 out of 5 Barrels.

Bundaberg Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 14

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Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Root Beer Brew (Water, Sugar, Molasses, Ginger Root, Sarsaparilla Root, Licorice Root, Vanilla Bean, Yeast), Caramel Color, Citric Acid, Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate), Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Root Beer Flavor.

“Traditionally brewed to a geniuine old recipe from real sarsaparilla root, licorice root, vanilla beans and molasses, Bundaberg Root Beer is an authentic taste of yesteryear.”

I was curious about this, as it is about the only Root Beer I know of which does not come from North America. Surprised to find that they may enjoy it in Australia. I also do like Bundaberg’s Ginger Beer.

The licorice root is much more dominant here than in other Root Beers, reminding me of some of the flavors in licorice candies, though without anise to really punch it through. Like me, you’ll probably wonder what that flavor is for a second, and realize that it is licorice without anise.

The flavors, however, are not well integrated and the overall character medicinal.

I guess that is appropriate for a beverage that was initially intended so, but it’s not really all that enjoyable recreationally.

I do kind of wonder what the “Root Beer Brew” tastes like on its own, without the “Root Beer Flavor”.

2 Out of 5 Barrels.

Birch Beer/Birch Bark

Regarding Birch Beer, I’ve been just a tad confused.

Apparently, Birch sap is similar to Maple sap and a syrup can be made from it which can be fermented and turned into beer, wine, or spirits. However, the sugar levels in Birch Sap are much lower than that of Maple, so the yield is less per gallon.

So, I was initially confused as regards whether Birch Sap or Birch Bark/Extract was used in Birch or Root Beer.

I think the most important quote below is, “Birch Tar oil is almost identical with Wintergreen oil.” As Wintergreen is often considered a substitute for Sassafras in Root Beer, thus Birch Bark or Birch Bark Extract could also be.

In conclusion, while it is possible that Birch Sap has been used to make beer in the US, it is much more likely that Root Beer calls for Birch Bark or Birch Bark Extract.

EDIT: Final Twist!

It appears Birch Beer/Birch Beer Extract is made from the bark/branches of the American Birch species, Black Birch (Cherry Birch,Sweet Birch), Betula lenta, not the European species White Birch, Betula alba, or Paper Birch, Betula papyrifera. The small twigs of Black Birch are known for their Wintergreen flavor, while Betula alba is more camphorous. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Black Birch Bark is available from any online suppliers I can find.

As noted below, Wintergreen Oil and Sweet Birch Oil are essentially identical chemically, so if you’re using one, you probably don’t need to use the other in your Root Beer, especially since it seems to be pretty impossible to find sweet birch bark available commercially. If you’ve got a Sweet Birch (Betula lenta) in your backyard, give making it from scratch a try and let me know how it works out.

Sweet Birch

From a Modern Herbal, Circa 1931, Mrs. M. Grieve,

White Birch

Birch Beer:

“When the stem of the tree is wounded, a saccharine juice flows out which is susceptible, with yeast, of vinous fermentation. A beer, wine, spirit and vinegar are prepared from it in some parts of Europe. Birch Wine, concocted from this thin, sugary sap of the tree, collected from incisions made in the trees in March, honey, cloves and lemon peel being added and then the whole fermented with yeast, makes a very pleasant cordial, formerly much appreciated. From 16 to 18 gallons of sap may be drawn from one large tree, and a moderate tapping does no harm.”

Birch Bark, Contituents:

“Birch bark only contains about 3 per cent. of tannic acid, but is extensively used for tanning, wherever there are large birch forests, throughout Northern Europe. As it gives a pale colour to the skin, it is used for the preliminary and the final stages of tanning. It contains betulin and betuls camphor.

“The leaves contain betulorentic acid.

“By destructive distillation, the white epidermis of the bark yields an empyreumatic oil, known variously in commerce as oil of Birch Tar, Oleum Rusci, Oleum Betulinum or Dagget. This is a thick, bituminous, brownish-black liquid, with a pungent, balsamic odour. It contains a high percentage of methylsalicylate, and also creosol and guaiacol. The Rectified Oil (Oleum Rusci Rectificatum) is sometimes substituted for oil of Cade.

“Birch Tar oil is almost identical with Wintergreen oil. It is not completely soluble in 95 per cent. acetic acid, nor in aniline, but Turpentine oil dissolves it completely.

Western Medicinal Use:

“Various parts of the tree have been applied to medicinal uses. The young shoots and leaves secrete a resinous substance having acid properties, which, combined with alkalies, is said to be a tonic laxative. The leaves have a peculiar, aromatic, agreeable odour and a bitter taste, and have been employed in the form of infusion (Birch Tea) in gout, rheumatism and dropsy, and recommended as a reliable solvent of stone in the kidneys. With the bark they resolve and resist putrefaction. A decoction of them is good for bathing skin eruptions, and is serviceable in dropsy.

“The oil is astringent, and is mainly employed for its curative effects in skin affections, especially eczema, but is also used for some Internal maladies.

“The inner bark is bitter and astringent, and has been used in intermittent fevers.

“The vernal sap is diuretic.

“Moxa is made from the yellow, fungous excrescences of the wood, which sometimes swell out from the fissures.”


Birch History in North America
:

“White birch bark was a traditional treatment used by Native Americans in tea and other beverages to treat stomach and intestinal problems that included diarrhea and dysentery.”

“White birch bark contains aspirin-like compounds and should not be used by anyone sensitive to aspirin.”