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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Virgil’s Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 13

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Contains: Purified, Carbonated Water, unbleached cane sugar, herbs, spices, and citric acid.

“Virgil’s is a superb blend of Spices & Herbs gathered from the world over; Anise, Licorice, Vanilla (Bourbon), Cinnamon, Clove, Wintergreen, Sweet Birch, Molasses, Nutmeg, Pimento Berry Oil and Oil of Cassia.”

A great ingredient list makes me really want to like Virgil’s Root Beer, but for some reason I don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with it, and it is plenty tasty, but there’s just something about it I can’t quite put my finger on that keeps it from being a great Root Beer.

3 1/2 out of 5 Barrels, for me. It might be a 5 Barrel Root Beer for you.

Wade’s Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 12

Wade's Root Beer

Wade’s Root Beer.

INGRDIENTS: Carbonated Water, Cane Sugar, Natural Flavors, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate, Phosphoric Acid.

The interesting thing about this Root Beer is a strong Caramel-like flavor in the finish. I am not sure if this means Wade’s are using natural caramel color from burned sugar (tastes like it), or if it is one or more of the Herbs/Roots.

“In our Root Beer we use only pure cane sugar and no artificial sweeteners or corn syrup. You’ll taste sassafras (the root in root beer), vanilla, anise, and wintergreen. Customers enjoy our recipe because it is distinctive yet has the familiar taste of root beer they know and love from childhood.”

In any case, this is my favorite “modern” Root Beer so far, and also seems to be the least sweet (no coincidence there!)

Interesting herbs and spices up front and then that crazy Caramel/butterscotch finish.

Just what I want out of a “craft” Root Beer. 5 out of 5 Barrels.

Salt Fish and Ackee

Salt Fish and Ackee with Bakes.

Miss Ollie’s is just about my favorite restaurant right now, and this version of Salt Fish & Ackee with “Bakes” is my favorite dish I’ve had there to date. We were mopping the plate with our Bakes (basically fried biscuits) and defending it furiously from the servers’ attempts to take it away. Mmmm…