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.

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

image

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.

Sarsaparilla

I already took a look at two of the ingredients most frequently included in Root Beer, Sassafras and Birch Bark, a third essential ingredient is Sarsaparilla.

“—An Alterative Mixture—
1 lb. Rio Negro Sarsaparilla root, or in place of it Stillingia Sylvatica; 6 OZ. rasped guaiac wood; aniseed and liquorice root bruised 2 OZ. of each; 1 lb. molasses; 1 OZ. Mezereon root-bark and 6 Cloves. Put all these into 2 gallons of boiling water and shake vessel well. When fermentation starts, take 4 fluid ounces three times daily.”

Hm, that sounds an awful lot like Root Beer right there!

But it turns out the reason people were drinking this preparation of Sarsaparilla was that it was among the most popular treatments of Venereal disease in the 1400s through to the 1600s, especially in Europe and among the Spanish settlers of the New World..

Even though time and clinical practice had showed Sarsaparilla to be largely ineffective, it is claimed it still had enough popular currency by the 17-1800s that patrons would drink Sarsaparilla tea after visiting houses of ill repute, in hopes of staving off Veneral disease. Sort of gives a different perspective on the cowboy ordering a Sarsaparilla, eh?

According to some, the Soft Drink called, “‘Sarsaparilla’ apparently made its debut as a patent medicine, an easy-to-take form of sassafras, much as Coca-Cola was first marketed in 1885 as a remedy for hangovers and headaches.”

But, uh, both Sarsaparilla and Sassafras were used to treat Syphilis? Birch Bark and Wintergreen both had Analgesic properties? I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here regarding the medicinal needs among the early Americans.

Finally, in modern Jamaica, it is often a part of various Root Tonics and thought to increase sexual potency and stamina in both women and men.

Sarsaparilla transcription from M. Grieve’s Modern Herbal, circa 1900.

“—Synonyms—Smilax Medica. Red-bearded Sarsaparilla.
“—Part Used—Root.
“—Habitat—Central America, principally Costa Rica.
“—Description—This plant derived its name from being exported to Europe through Jamaica. The word Sarsaparilla comes from the Spanish Sarza, meaning a bramble, and parilla, a vine, in allusion to the thorny stems of the plant. This is a non-mealy Sarsaparilla. It is a large perennial climber, rhizome underground, large, short, knotted, with thickened nodes and roots spreading up to 6 or 8 feet long. Stems erect, semiwoody, with very sharp prickles 1/2 inch long. Leaves large, alternate stalked, almost evergreen with prominent veins, seven nerved mid-rib very strongly marked. Flowers and fruit not known. Cortex thick and brownish, with an orange red tint; when chewed it tinges the saliva, and gives a slightly bitter and mucilaginous taste, followed by a very acrid one; it contains a small proportion of starch, also a glucoside, sarsaponin, sarsapic acid, and fatty acids, palmitic, stearic, behenic, oleic and linolic.
“Jamaica Sarsaparilla was introduced in the middle of the sixteenth century as a remedy for syphilis, and later came to be used for other chronic diseases, specially rheumatism. It is a mild gastric irritant due to its saponin content. The smoke of Sarsaparilla was recommended for asthma. It is also very useful as a tonic, alterative, diaphoretic and diuretic. Its active principle is a crystalline body, Parillin or Smilacin.”

“Particularly indicated for inveterate syphilis, pseudo-syphilis, mescurio-syphilis and struma in all its forms. Also valuable in gonorrhoeal neuralgia and other depraved conditions of the system as well as for other diseases treated by other varieties.”

Whatever Happened to the Soft Drink Sarsaparilla?, Cecil Adams, The Straight Dope, 1977

“Sarsaparilla is still around, but it takes a little poking to turn it up. The drink, which tastes a great deal like root beer, is still popular in some parts of the U.S. — the folks in Pittsburgh, I understand, are crazy about the stuff. Although none of the major soft-drink manufacturers markets a national brand, all continue to make the flavor base available to any local bottler who cares to market sarsaparilla on his own. Many cities have a specialty store or two that carries these brands; ask around.

“You might think that sarsaparilla would be made from extract of the sarsaparilla plant, a tropical vine distantly related to the lily, but you’d be wrong. It was originally made (artificial flavors have taken over now, of course) from a blend of birch oil and sassafras, the dried root bark of the sassafras tree. Sassafras was widely used as a home remedy in the nineteenth century — taken in sufficient doses, it induces sweating, which some people thought was a good thing. Sarsaparilla apparently made its debut as a patent medicine, an easy-to-take form of sassafras, much as Coca-Cola was first marketed in 1885 as a remedy for hangovers and headaches.

“Why isn’t sarsaparilla popular anymore? Basically, it just lost out to cola, like almost every other flavor you could name. Root beer, sarsaparilla’s closest cousin and once America’s most popular soft drink, now accounts for less than 4 percent of the national market. Sarsaparilla’s share is too small to be measured.

Medicinal benefits of Sarsaparilla

“The sarsaparilla plant is used in Jamaica for a number of its believed benefits. It is most popularly used today as a base for tonic drinks that are believed to not only serve as an aphrodisiac but also as a way to increase sexual stamina and libido. The plant is also believed to beneficial in the treatment of syphilis and chronic diseases such as asthma and rheumatism. Sarsaparilla is also used to treat gouts, fevers, colds, arthritis, gas and persistent belly aches. There are also some that use the herb to help increase muscle mass due to the high levels of testosterone that are found in the plant.

“Although there is a widespread belief in the benefits of sarsaparilla on the island, there are no concrete scientific research that proves these varying benefits. The side effects of continuous use of the herb have also not been definitively highlighted by scientific evidence. Despite this, there are locals that will swear by the medicinal properties of the herb.”


Keith Lorren Jamaican Roots Tonic

“Sarsaparilla: The root of Jamaican Sarsaparilla is used to treat rheumatism, arthritis and other pains. It is used to remedy skin conditions, such as, acne, eczema, psoriasis, ring worm and scrofula diseases. It is said to cure syphilis. It is a good blood purifier. It helps to break up infections in the body by eliminating wastes through urine and perspiration. It supports the proper functioning of the liver and colon. It is an ingredient in many tonics for general well-being. Sarsaparilla is regarded as an aphrodisiac, and especially prized by Jamaican men. It balances the hormones in both males and females. It is recommended as an antidote for any strong poison but should be taken on a clear stomach. It is used to relieve flatulence and is also used as an eye-wash as well as relief for colds, fever, and as a hair growth hormone. Sarsaparilla contains the plant steroids sarsasapogenin, smilagenin, sitosterol, stigmasterol, and pollinastanol; and the saponins sarsasaponin, smilasaponin, sarsaparilloside, and sitosterol glucoside, among others. The majority of sarsaparilla’s pharmacological properties and actions have been attributed to these steroids and saponins. The saponins have been reported to facilitate the body’s absorption of other drugs and phytochemicals, which accounts for its history of use in herbal formulas as an agent for bioavailability and to enhancement the power and effect of other herbs.”

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.

image

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.

image

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.

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.

Dang! Butterscotch Root Beer

Summer 2013 Root Beer Project, Post 15

image

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.