Bitter Beer v1.3b

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I was missing my bitter root beer syrup as I drank my way through the spruce oil version.

Sadly, I had an issue with contamination with one of the bottles of the Gram converted Root Beer batch. Tried to remove the top and it would not stop exploding out of the bottle. It also smelled pretty foul, so some sort of contamination I’m guessing. If that happens to you, don’t even try it.

So I needed a new batch. I have been a bit curious about how Mugwort, a common ingredient in Gruit beers, would work in the bitter root beer. Along with Mugwort, since I was playing in the Artemisia family, I figured I’d add some Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus, and Fennel Seed, since they are common partners in crime, er, Absinthe.

Bitter Root Beer v1.3b

Roots:
2 tsp Sassafras, Bark of Root*
2 tsp. Sarsaparilla (Jamaican)
2 tsp Wintergreen
2 tsp Licorice
1 tsp Gentian Root
1 inch section fresh ginger root, peeled, sliced and smashed
1/2 tsp Dried Ginger Root
1/2 tsp American Spikenard
1/2 tsp burdock root
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp tarragon
1/3 Vanilla Bean
1 Star Anise

Herbs:
1/2 tsp Mugwort
1/2 tsp Yerba Mate
Pinch Cascade hops

Sweetener:
1 Cup Washed Raw Sugar
3 TBSP CA Blackberry Honey
1 TBSP Molasses

1 drop wintergreen oil.

METHOD: Bring 2 Cups of Water to a boil. Add Roots, cover and simmer for 20 mins. Turn off heat and add herbs. Cover and steep for another 20 mins. Strain out solids. Stir in Molasses, Honey, and Washed Raw Sugar. Add Wintergreen Oil and stir to combine. Cool, bottle in santized container, 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 3-4 parts soda water) or carbonate with yeast (mixing 1 part syrup to 3 parts water and 1 tsp of proofed yeast).

On initial taste, I’m finding this a bit busy, it will be interesting to see if it settles down after cooling. For the next version, I’ll probably leave out the Wintergreen oil.

*Note, Sassafras Oil has been shown to cause liver cancer in laboratory rats and so Sassafras has been forbidden for use in food or beverage products by the FDA. Sassafras Oil is also a precursor chemical to MDMA, aka Ecstasy, so the TTB recommends that vendors keep a close eye on any significant sales. Use at your own risk.

Ginger Beer, Take 2

Everyone liked the last batch of Ginger Beer so much, I felt like I had to make another.

I’m doubling the last batch of yeast carbonated ginger beer, and making a few changes to the method from the last.

Flannestad Ginger Beer.

INGREDIENTS:
10 oz well rinsed fresh Ginger Root, preferably organic, roughly sliced.
1 1/2 cup Washed Raw Sugar.
2 quart Water.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast.*

METHOD: Bloom yeast in lukewarm water with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bring 24 oz water and all sugar to simmer. Add ginger to blender bowl with remaining water and puree. (Blender works well for me in these amounts, but if you have a juicer that can juice ginger root, go for it.) Pour through cheesecloth to filter. Press as much liquid out of ginger solids as possible, I use a sturdy potato ricer. Add ginger juice and water to hot sugar solution and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and bottle in clean sanitized containers, leaving some headroom. Seal tightly and place in a warm dark place for 5-8 hours, depending on temperature and how feisty your yeast is. Move to refrigeration when the bottles are firm to the touch. Yeast (tan) and Ginger starch (white) will fall out of solution. When serving, open carefully over bowl to catch potential over-foam.

Ginger Root.

Ginger Root.

The first change I made this time was just to rinse the ginger root well with warm water, instead of peeling. I need to do a side by side comparison with peeled and unpeeled to find out if peeling makes a difference in flavor. Really, the only thing which slightly concerns me about not peeling is the potential for bacterial contamination from the skins.

This time, the ginger root was quite a bit more mature than the last. The flavor of the juice and ginger beer is hotter and sweeter than the more floral young ginger I used last time.

Ginger Puck.

Ginger Puck.

Nicely formed ginger pucks, after squeezing. You could dry them and use for room fresheners.

Opening Ginger Beer.

Opening Ginger Beer.

I continue to use empty soda water and mineral water for the ginger beer. Easier and safer than glass, at this point. You can gauge the carbonation level easily by simply squeezing the bottle and checking the firmness. Some small risk they’ll pop the caps and make a mess, but little risk they will become ginger grenades. Once I get the ferment times down, I may switch to bottling in glass.

Interestingly enough, it seems like the canada dry soda water bottles form a much better seal than the crystal geyser mineral water bottles. With the same time allowed for fermentation, the ginger beer in the canada dry bottles over-flows copiously, while the ginger beer in the crystal geyser is carbonated but does not overflow. Perhaps there is some CO2 leakage with the crystal geyser bottles above a certain pressure threshold.

Bottles.

Bottles.

A lot of other ginger beer recipes use spices or citrus in them, I actually really like how this is just about how complex and multilayered a flavor pure ginger root has. The complexity you get is amazing, not to mention the length of the flavor. You start by enjoying the great smell of fresh ginger root in the carbonated bubbles with a touch of yeast, enjoy the sweet and floral flavor, are knocked back by the heat, and then enjoy the long evolving flavor as it fades.

I guess we have the temperance movement to thank for the prevalence of pressure carbonated ginger beers and other sodas, but maybe if more people give the real thing a try we can get some of this real flavor back. With yeast nutrients, real sugar, and natural ginger maybe these could gain as much traction as kombucha.

Commercial ginger beers and ales, pumped up with capsaicin for heat and with their flacid ginger flavor from extracts, are poor, poor substitutes, indeed, for real ginger beer.

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

Gram-i-Fied Root Beer

Root Beer Brewing.

Root Beer Brewing.

Aside from the Spruce Oil, I really liked that last Root Beer recipe, and I’ve been meaning to turn it into a weight recipe instead of a volume recipe anyway. Some of the ingredients are so light, it’s kind of impossible to weigh them in the amounts I am using with the scale I have, but here you go:

Root Beer, by weight

16oz Water

ROOTS:
20g Fresh Ginger Root, sliced and smashed
3g Sassafras Bark of Root*
3g Sarsaparilla Root
2g Vanilla Bean, split and scraped
2g Grains of Paradise, crushed
1g Star Anise
1g Spikenard
1g Wintergreen
1g Ginger Root, dried
1g Roasted Dandelion Root
1g Licorice Root
1g Honey Roasted Licorice Root
1g Star Anise, whole
6 Juniper Berries, crushed
1/4 tsp Gentian Root

HERBS:
1/2 tsp Horehound
1 generous pinch Cascade Hops
1/2 tsp Yerba Mate

200g Washed Raw Sugar
3 Tablespoons Wildflower Honey
1 Tablespoon Molasses
1 drop Wintergreen Oil

METHOD: Bring 2 Cups of Water to a boil. Add Roots, cover and simmer for 20 mins. Turn off heat and add herbs. Cover and steep for another 20 mins. Strain out solids. Stir in Molasses, Honey, and Washed Raw Sugar. Add Wintergreen Oil. 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 3-4 parts soda water) or carbonate with yeast (mixing 1 part syrup to 3 parts water).

*Note, Sassafras Oil has been shown to cause liver cancer in laboratory rats and so Sassafras has been forbidden for use in food or beverage products by the FDA. Sassafras Oil is also a precursor chemical to MDMA, aka Ecstasy, so the TTB recommends that vendors keep a close eye on any significant sales. Use at your own risk.

Hires Based Root Beer v1.1

Vanilla Beans.

Vanilla Beans.

A few things have been bothering me about my interpretation of Charles Hires’ Recipe for Root Beer.

First, the vanilla I’ve been using has been pretty crap. So I stopped at a store which specializes in Vanilla and picked up some Vanilla Planifolia beans. Hi Vanilla Saffron Imports, you rock!

When researching ingredients, I realized that the “Ginger (Africa)” listed in the recipe was probably Grains of Paradise, so I wanted to include that pretty common beer ingredient in my recipe.

Charles Hires also included “Chirreta” which is a Gentian-like bitter root. I had made a couple truly bitter root beers, but I wanted to rein (oops, not reign, thanks Rowen!) in the bitterness in a bit.

I’d also been reading about Wintergreen and that the compounds which create the flavor we associate with Wintergreen are not readily available from a simple infusion. Apparently, the leaves need to be fermented and then the result distilled, for you to get anything really resembling Wintergreen flavor. So I got some Organic Wintergreen Oil.

Finally, early recipes for Root Beer contain spruce oil. If I’m springing for Wintergreen Oil, I might as well spring for Spruce.

Root Beer v1.1

ROOTS:
2 tsp Sassafras Bark of Root*
2 tsp Sarsaparilla Root (Jamaican)
2 tsp Wintergreen
1/2 tsp grains of paradise, crushed
1/2 tsp Juniper Berries, crushed
1/2 tsp Licorice Root
1/2 tsp Honey Roasted Licorice
1 tsp Fresh Ginger Root
1/2 tsp Ginger, dried
1/2 tsp American Spikenard
1/2 tsp Burdock Root
1/4 tsp Gentian Root
1/3 of a Vanilla planifolia Bean
1 Star Anise

HERBS:
1 pinch Cascade Hope
1/2 tsp Horehound
1/2 tsp Yerba Mate

1 Cup Washed Raw Sugar
3 TBSP CA Blackberry Honey
1 TBSP Molasses

1 Drop Organic Wintergreen Oil
1 Drop Organic Black Spruce Oil

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).

Root Beer v1.1.

Root Beer v1.1.

Whoa! Those essential oils are powerful stuff. I think I need to at least double this recipe to balance them out. The Wintergreen isn’t bad, most modern Root Beer are more serious Wintergreen bombs than this version, but the Spruce scent on this is kind of overwhelming. Authentic or no, I’ll leave the spruce out next time.

*Note, Sassafras Oil has been shown to cause liver cancer in laboratory rats and so Sassafras has been forbidden for use in food or beverage products by the FDA. Sassafras Oil is also a precursor chemical to MDMA, aka Ecstasy, so the TTB recommends that vendors keep a close eye on any significant sales. Use at your own risk.

Dr Chase’s Root Beer

Here’s my favorite Root Beer recipe so far, found in John Hull Brown’s “Early American Beverages”. It is, of course, in the section on Medicinal Beverages.

“Root Beer: For each gallon of water to be used, take hops, burdock, yellow dock, sarsaparilla, dandelion, and spikenard roots, bruised, of each 1/2 oz.; Boil about 20 minutes, and strain while hot, add 8 or 10 drops of oils of spruce and sassafras* mixed in equal proportions, when cool enough not to scald your hand, put in 2 or 3 tablespoons of yeast; molasses two-thirds of a pint, or white sugar 1/2 lb. gives it about the right sweetness.

“Keep these proportions for as many gallons as you wish to make. You can use more or less of the roots to suit your taste after trying it; it is best to get the dry roots, or dig them and let them dry, and of course you can add any other root known to possess medicinal properties desired in the beer. After all is mixed, let it stand in a jar with a cloth thrown over it, to work about two hours, then bottle and set in a cool place. This is a nice way to take alternatives, without taking medicine. And families ought to make it every Spring, and drink freely of it for several weeks, and thereby save, perhaps, several dollars in doctors’ bills.”

Dr Chase’s Recipes, 1869

Well, with a government shut down and a stalemate on health care, perhaps it is time to review this recipe!

*Note, Sassafras Oil has been shown to cause liver cancer in laboratory rats and is forbidden for use in food by the FDA. It is also a precursor chemical to MDMA, aka Ecstasy, so the TTB recommends that vendors keep a close eye on any significant sales of Sassafras Oil. Use at your own risk.

Gale’s Root Beer

Summer Root Beer Post 26.

Gale's Root Beer.

Gale’s Root Beer.

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, cane sugar, caramel color, natural and artificial flavoring, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla extract, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate added as preservative.

Just past the Fall Equinox, winding down the Root Beer project to make time for other pursuits. (Hint: They involve Toddy Sticks, Loggerheads, and Cask Ales.)

A Word From Chef Gale Gand:

“I love root beer!” While cooking in England some years ago, my root beer sources dried up and I was forced to do without. So I got a little brown terrier puppy and named him Rootie. When Rootie and I got back to the United States I started making my own root beer to serve in my restaurants. Now I’m pleased to present my best batch ever! Rootie and I know you’ll love it. Enjoy!

Like the Caamaño Bros. High Noon Sarsaparilla, the initial flavors here are very Cola-like. Mid tastes are thin and the late flavors primarily birch and wintergreen with a touch of vanilla very late.

Awesome label and a great story. On the plus side, this isn’t super sweet, but still, I wanted to like this Root Beer more than I actually did.

3 1/2 out of 5 Barrels.

#HumbleBrag AKA Root Beer 1.3b

I haven’t been entirely clear if this whole bittered Root Beer has been a mistake. I like it, but I’ve been A little nervous about having “normal” people try it.

All the batches have been pretty darn bitter, and not everyone enjoys Gentian as much as I.

Happily, I have a Food and Beverage writer (Hi Lessley!) living next door, so after her husband loaned me a shirt for an event, I gave her a little of Root Beer Syrup 1.3a as a thank you gift when I returned the shirt.

I waited nervously for feedback…

Then yesterday I was standing at the bus stop across the street, when she ran out of her door and over to where I was standing.

“That Root Beer is amazing and I don’t even like soft drinks!”

I was like, yeah, that’s my whole impetus. I’ve been trying not to drink much alcohol this summer, but I can’t stand most commercial soft drinks, either.

“I want to buy it, it’s so good!”

Well, you can’t buy it, but the recipe is on the blog, and you can buy most of the ingredients at the Rainbow Grocery Coop.

Anyway, that interaction, among other things has been the highlight of my week, so I made up another batch.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.3b (Bittersweet)

Roots:

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

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).

*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. 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 anyway. I also wouldn’t give it to kids, but they probably wouldn’t like it, especially in this bitter concoction.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.5

Unfortunately, I liked Bitter Root Beer v1.3a less than I liked the original Moxie Root Beer v1.3. Damn, reminds me of my old “Hercules” experimentation days.

Thought I would return to the original proposition, but confront what happens when you leave Sassafras Root Bark out of the mix, since that’s what the FDA thinks I should do anyway. I’ve pumped up the Sarsaparilla and Wintergreen and also slightly widened the “kitchen spice” mix with Clove and Ceylon Cinnamon.

Flannestad Root Beer v1.5 (Sassafras Free)

Roots:

3 tsp Sarsaparilla Root, Jamaican
3 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 Roasted Dandelion Root
1 tsp Licorice Root
1/2 Vanilla Bean, Split
1 Star Anise
4 Cloves, crushed
1/4 piece Ceylon Cinnamon, Crushed

Herbs:

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

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.

Flannestad Root Beer 1.5.

Flannestad Root Beer 1.5.

It does end up more of a “spice” beer than a Root Beer, just doesn’t quite have the “bite” of a Sassafras based Root Beer. Heck, it would probably make a tasty Toddy…

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.