Bitter Root Beer

The previous Bitter Root Beer was my favorite “Root Beer” so far.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

I thought I would add back in the Dandelion Root and switch the Star Anise out for Anise Seed.

Flannestad Bitter Root Beer v1.3a

Roots:

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

Herbs:

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

Sweetener:
1/4 Cup CA Wildflower Honey
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, Honey, and Washed Raw Sugar. Cool, and keep refrigerated. Makes a 3 cups of Syrup. To serve, mix syrup to taste with soda water (I usually go 1 part syrup to 4 parts soda water).

Bitter Root Beer.

Bitter Root Beer.

*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 bitter concoction in any case.

Boylan’s Original Birch Beer

Summer Root Beer Project Post 25

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MADE FROM: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Pure Birch Oils, Natural Flavors, Caramel Color, Natural Yucca Extract, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness).

“Boylan’s Original Birch Beer is the one that started it all! The unique taste is distinctively minty and sharp, with strong notes of sweet birch and wintergreen oil. Because of its “bite” this product has an almost cult-like appeal among the true birch/root beer enthusiasts, those who aren’t afraid to stand out in a crowd. Which is great, because neither are we.

“Tastes great with:

“Philly Cheesesteaks, of course!”

Whoa, they aren’t kidding, boy is the Boylan’s Original Birch Beer Birch-ey!

About the only criticism I have is that it is a tad sweet for me and lacks a bit of the complexity of the Boylan’s Root Beer. Otherwise, it is very tasty.

4 out of 5 Barrels.

Dr Brown’s Root Beer

Summer Root Beer Project Post 24

Dr Brown's Root Beer.

Dr Brown’s Root Beer.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar and/or High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Gum Acacia, Citric Acid.

Definitely a classic Root Beer, and definitely a Wintergreen heavy entry. Not as sweet as many big commercial Root Beers, which makes it more drinkable. Definitely went well with the Sandwich below…

Carzle.

Carzle.

“Deli Board has midwest roots, the classic flavors of an East coast deli, and a left coast twist. If that doesn’t make your mouth water you can stop reading now.

“Starting in August 2009 as a catering business in a small kitchen, Deli Board now specializes in handcrafted sandwiches, soups, salads and sauces made with fresh ingredients and lots of love. Whether you are ordering one sando or hundreds, you will be assured top notch quality and phenomenal service so that your mouth will be asking for more Deli Board.”

A Carzle Sandwich at Deliboard, involving Brisket, Pastrami, Cheese, Hot Peppers, Slaw, Pickle Slices. Also, those delicious pickles.

3 1/2 out of 5 Barrels.

Smoky Root Beer

I really liked the Bitter Root Beer, but I have been interested in trying a Root Beer with some smoky elements, so am swapping out some of the herbal flavors for darker and smoked flavors. No rest for the wicked.

As Jim Meehan calls it, the “Mr Potato Head” school of Mixology, swapping out certain elements for other elements.

Lapsang Souchong is a tea smoked over Cedar fires.

Black Cardamom is a ginger relative whose pods are too large to sun dry, so are smoked over fires.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.4 (Slightly Smoky)

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 Burdock Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root, Honey Roasted
1/2 tsp Wild Cherry Bark
1/2 tsp White Birch Bark
1 small Black Cardamom Pod, Crushed
1 Star Anise
1/4 piece Ceylon Cinnamon, Crushed

Herbs:

1/2 tsp Cascade Hops
1/2 tsp Yerba Mate
1/2 tsp Lapsang Souchong Tea

Sweetener:
1/4 Cup CA Wildflower Honey
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, Honey, and Washed Raw Sugar. Cool, bottle in clean containers, and keep refrigerated. Makes a 3 cups of Syrup. To serve, mix syrup to taste with soda water.

Smoky Root Beer.

(Not Very) Smoky Root Beer.

I didn’t exactly accomplish my “Smoked Root Beer” with this, but I have gotten closest to what might be considered the flavor profile for a 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.

Fentiman’s Dandelion and Burdock

Summer Root Beer Project Post 23

Fentiman's Dandelion & Burdock.

Fentiman’s Dandelion & Burdock.

 

“Full-strength infusions of Dandelion leaves and Burdock root, sweetened with pear juice and spiced with a touch of ginger and anise, all intermingle to create the unmistakable aroma and distinctive palate of this traditional English soda.”

Ingredients: water, carbonated water, cane sugar, pear juice concentrate, glucose syrup, fermented ginger root extracts (ginger root, water, yeast), dandelion infusion (water, dandelion root, ethanol), burdock infusion (water, burdock root, ethanol), aniseed flavor.

A lot of people will say that the impetus for making Root Beer came from traditional English beverages like Fentiman’s Dandelion & Burdock.

Using Dandelion and Burdock Roots to brew it, it may indeed be the original “Root Beer”.

I had tried it once before and despised it. Thought I should check once again to see if I still felt the same way.

Yep, still can’t stand it. Tastes like an indeterminately fruity, yet medicinal, cough drop.

Guess I’m glad the pilgrims lost their access to whatever they used to make this concoction and started making good old American Root Beer.

Purchases, August, 2013

Been trying to avoid spending money on booze, but sometimes you just gotta go to the liquor store.

Fernet & Genepi.

Fernet & Genepi.

I’ve been waiting for Tempus Fugit‘s Fernet Angelico, for what seems like years. It is finally here and it is just as delicious as I remember.

In addition, the Haus Alpenz imported and Dolin produced Dolin Véritable Génépy Des Alpes arrived.

Dolin Véritable Génépy (Génépi) Des Alpes Liqueur $29.99 – I LOVE THIS STUFF!!! The elusive Génépy (Génépi) from Dolin is a type of liqueur that has long been sought-after, but only recently become available in the US. Its character is derived from the various alpine shrubs of the genus Artemisia. More commonly known as wormwood, Genepi is an iconic alpine botanical associated with the kingdom of Savoy and the regions in France, Switzerland, and Italy that once made up that kingdom. It’s been used for centuries to flavor liqueurs, digestifs and various tonics. The flavor profile falls somewhere in between modern absinthe and chartreuse. While exhibiting significant sweetness, its strong herbal quality keeps it nicely balanced. It makes for an excellent digestif and is a key ingredient in several classic cocktails.”

David Othenin-Girard, K&L Wines

Well, make it a twofer.

 

 

 

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

Moxie

Moxie

Contains: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (A Preservative), Gentian Root Extractives, Phosphoric Acid, Caffeine, and Citric Acid.

“1885-1899: Moxie Nerve Food invented and patented in 1885. First bottled carbonated beverage made in America. Many wild curative claims. Attempted distribution in Atlanta, Denver, & Chicago, but never really took off except in northeast. Also introduced in lozenge format, but that did not do well. Fantastic claim that basic secret ingredient (now known to be gentian root) was discovered by Thompson’s former comrade, a Lt. Moxie (he never existed) while traveling in the wilds of South America somewhere. Unique Moxie bottle wagons were used to dispense Moxie at fairs and amusement parks. Some ads incorporated then-popular “brownies” in them, others promoted a “health and vigor” theme (almost like today’s “energy drinks”).”

Not having tried Moxie before, it seemed like that should be on the list. Plus, my friend Louis, (of Miracle Mile Bitters fame,) egged me on a bit.

Moxie is kind of cool, not as bitter as I expected, but also a bit less sugar than most Root Beer. Most Root Beer clock in at 40 plus grams of sugar per 12oz (3.3g per ounce), Moxie is 25g per 8oz. (3.125g per ounce).

Re: flavor impact. Really medicinal smell. Put me off a bit. Tasting it, it’s a bit like a cross between cola and root beer. Some wintergreen elements to the flavor, but then also the bitter/sour of cola with a distinct bitterness that lingers in the aftertaste.

My previous Root Beers were already a bit bitter with the Spikenard and Dandelion, but I’ll pump that up a bit by replacing the Dandelion with Gentian. I’m also going to swap in Honey for the Maple and leave out the Vanilla.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

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 Gentian Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root
1/2 tsp Licorice Root, Honey Roasted
1 Star Anise

Herbs:

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

Sweetener:
1/4 Cup CA Wildflower Honey
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.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3 (Moxie)

 

Oh my, now that is a tongue twister. The gentian substitution makes this quite a bit more bitter than either of my previous Root Beers or Moxie. We’re heading into non-alcoholic Amaro Territory, exactly where I was hoping to go. Tasty.

*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. Use at your own risk. No one has ever correlated Sassafras, Gumbo File, or Root Beer with Liver cancer in humans, but try to avoid shooting up with it anywa
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.

Wintergreen

I’ve already taken a look at three of the ingredients most frequently included in Root Beer, Sassafras, Sarsaparilla, and Birch Bark, a fourth essential ingredient is Wintergreen.

Wintergreen originally came from a small perennial herb native to the North Eastern portions of the United States. According the the Canadian Forestry Association quoted below, it was the original source of the active ingredient in Aspirin. People’s in North America, prior to the arrival of Europeans, brewed a tea from it and used it to treat a variety of symptoms, from respiratory infections to headaches. When tea became scarce during the North American Colonists’ rebellion against England, they adopted the practices of the Native Americans and brewed an infusion from it. With it’s delicious flavor and variety of therapeutic uses, Wintergreen eventually found its way into the originally medicinal elixirs which we now call Sarsaparilla and Root Beer.

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

Wintergreen entry from Your Local Wildwood Pharmacy, Canadian Forestry Association website.

“It is as a medicinal herb that wintergreen is best known. Oil of wintergreen, distilled from the leaves, is composed primarily of methyl salicylate, a poison if used in large quantities. Minute amounts of this oil are used in flavouring toothpaste and other dental products, candy and lozenges. Aspirin, the most widely used drug after tobacco and caffeine, was originality extracted from wintergreen. When the poison (methyl) is removed from the oil, the crystalline material left behind is acetylsalicylic acid, the effective ingredient in aspirin.

“As well as oil, the leaves of wintergreen contain a compound called arbutin. This material is more stable when it is heated than when it is cold, meaning that it retains its medicinal qualities when heated or rubbed into muscles for treating various aches and pains including rheumatism. A few drops of wintergreen oil on a soft cloth and placed on the brow is a common time-proven cure for headaches. As well, the stems of the plant are chewed by people around the world to prevent tooth decay.”

Wintergreen entry from A Modern Herbal, by M. Greive, circa 1900.

“Botanical: Gaultheria procumbens (LINN.)

“—Synonyms—Teaberry. Boxberry. Mountain Tea. Checkerberry. Thé du Canada. Aromatic Wintergreen. Partridge Berry. Deerberry.
“—Part Used—Leaves.
“—Habitat—Northern United States from Georgia to Newfoundland; Canada.

“—Description—A small indigenous shrubby, creeping, evergreen plant, growing about 5 to 6 inches high under trees and shrubs, particularly under evergreens such as Kalmias and Rhododendrons. It is found in large patches on sandy and barren plains, also on mountainous tracts. The stiff branches bear at their summit tufts of leaves which are petiolate, oval, shiny, coriaceous, the upper side bright green, paler underneath. The drooping white flowers are produced singly from the base of the leaves in June and July, followed by fleshy, bright red berries (with a sweetish taste and peculiar flavour), formed by the enlargement of the calyx. The leaves were formerly official in the United States Pharmacopoeia, but now only the oil obtained from them is official, though in some parts the whole plant is used. The odour is peculiar and aromatic, and the taste of the whole plant astringent, the leaves being particularly so.

“—Constituents—The volatile oil obtained by distillation and to which all the medicinal qualities are due, contains 99 per cent Methyl Salicylate: other properties are 0.3 of a hydrocarbon, Gaultherilene, and an aldehyde or ketone, a secondary alcohol and an ester. To the alcohol and ester are due the characteristic odour of the oil. The oil does not occur crudely in the plant, but as a nonodorous glucoside, and before distillation, the leaves have to be steeped for twelve to twenty-four hours for the oil to develop by fermentation – a reaction between water and a neutral principle: Gaultherin.

“—Medicinal Action and Uses—
Tonic, stimulant, astringent, aromatic. Useful as a diuretic and emmenagogue and for chronic mucous discharges. Is said to be a good galactogogue. The oil of Gaultheria is its most important product. It has all the properties of the salicylates and therefore is most beneficial in acute rheumatism, but must be given internally in capsules, owing to its pungency, death from inflammation of the stomach having been known to result from frequent and large doses of it. It is readily absorbed by the skin, but is liable to give rise to an eruption, so it is advisable to use for external application the synthetic oil of Wintergreen, Methyl Salicylate, or oil from the bark of Betula lenta, which is almost identical with oil of Gaultheria. In this form, it is a very valuable external application for rheumatic affections in all chronic forms of joint and muscular troubles, lumbago, sciatica, etc. The leaves have found use as a substitute for tea and as a flavouring for genuine tea. The berries form a winter food for animals, partridges, deer, etc. They have been used, steeped in brandy, to produce a bitter tonic taken in small quantities. The oil is a flavouring agent for tooth powders, liquid dentifrices, pastes, etc., especially if combined with menthol and eucalyptus.”

Kutztown Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 22

Kutztown Root Beer.

Kutztown Root Beer.

CONTAINS: Triple-Filtered Carbonated Water, Pure Cane Sugar, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (A Preservative), Yucca Extractives, and Acacia.

“When you’re bad for something mighty good, reach for a foamy mug of Kutztown Root Beer! Tastes chust like old-fashioned, ’cause you know we make it that way. Drink ’til you ouch. there’s more back!”

I think I’m tired of Caramel Color and Wintergreen, about the only Root Beer that I can face is the stuff I make myself.

By all accounts, this isn’t a bad Root Beer, more well balanced than most commercial brands, but I’m just about Root Beered out.

I don’t think I can be fair-ish anymore, I’m just tired of drinking the stuff.

Still, I don’t think it is a 4 Barrel Root Beer.

3 1/2 out of 5 Barrels.

Goose Island Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 21

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Ingredients: Triple Filtered Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate as preservatives and Citric Acid.

“Our recipe was originally brewed at the Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub and is unchanged today. While drinking a bottle you’ll notice the vanilla notes up front and wonder what familiar taste you’re getting at the end. The wintergreen finish will cause you to reach for that second bottle. Maybe over some vanilla ice cream this time?

“As the company’s firstborn, Goose Island Root Beer expresses its own personality with a new package that plays on classic Chicago iconography while making it clear who the star is in the soda line up.”

Wintergreen is there in the smell and finish, with a vanilla-butterscotch middle, and, yes, a wintergreen aftertaste.

Man, I wish one of these companies could make an all naturally flavored root beer with no caramel color. Is that so hard?

Not very complex, can’t say I particularly care for it.

2 1/2 out of 5 Barrels.