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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Soda Making > Root Beer Mystery
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:02 PM   #1
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Default Root Beer Mystery

After spending hours on researching Root Beer recipes, reading books, stories of microbrewed rootbeer, and looking at forum posts - I'm puzzled at a couple discoveries.

I ran across an article for someone who makes root beer with Sassafras. When asked about this, apprarently he has a safrole removing process that removes it from the Sassafras bark/root itself. I thought that was pretty expensive considering how many articles state that exact thing - it's too costly. Yet from the looks of what he did - it couldn't have been that expensive unless he used extracts early on and then made enough money to get the necessary equipment to do this.

I'm curious as to how breweries microbrew root beer and I'm finding nothing on the web that explains any of this. I'm not so much worried about the ingredients other than do they use sassafras root/bark/leaves or do they use extract for that...the other roots don't have the dark cloud over them like Sassafras does.

Does anyone have any insight on this?

I'll like to start and keep a small side business for my daughters but only go to farmer's markets and arts fests...nothing big and not turning it into a business by itself (unless something drastic changes). The application would be to make 200 gallons a year MAYBE. Like I said - small operation. I love to homebrew though and just using extracts leaves me dissappointed I guess. I want it as natural as possible and I plan on using turbinado or demerara sugar. For me, it's about making a great tasting root beer. I also plan on making my own vanilla extract the right way...no imitation stuff.

Thanks in advance.

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Old 05-21-2012, 08:03 PM   #2
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I'm pretty sure most of the breweries who make their own Root Beer probably buy bulk concentrate and adjust as needed to get a "house flavor". Perhaps some of the really big guys buy individual flavorings and blend their own.

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Old 05-21-2012, 09:16 PM   #3
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Apparently there is a guy out in Idaho that takes the Safrole out of the Sassafras himself in order to brew his commercial Root Beer. How is that possible - wouldn't the FDA have to approve the process...etc?

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Old 06-16-2012, 03:48 AM   #4
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From what I read, a lot of the newer root beer recipes use wintergreen and/or sarsaparilla instead of sassafras.

But there is a method for removing Safrole according to other sources.

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Old 06-17-2012, 05:06 PM   #5
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In addition to wintergreen and/or sarsparilla some root beers will also use anise stars and licorce root. I've made root beer from anise stars and licorce root, but I didn't have wintergreen at the time. I think that the wintergreen is really important.

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Old 06-18-2012, 02:27 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZenBrew View Post
In addition to wintergreen and/or sarsparilla some root beers will also use anise stars and licorce root. I've made root beer from anise stars and licorce root, but I didn't have wintergreen at the time. I think that the wintergreen is really important.
True, I forgot about those two. I once tried to use anise star oil but this was way too strong. I had a very weird headache and called the anti-poison phone line just in case...

Later I found that there are two types of anise star and one is toxic. I also read that it's difficult to know which one you get when you buy some since not everybody is aware (cares?) of the difference.
The FDA has issued this advisory as an interim measure. One problem is that there is more than one type of star anise. The Chinese star anise is considered safe. A closely related species, the Japanese star anise, contains sikimitoxin and is toxic. Once star anise has been dried and processed, it is not possible to visually distinguish between the Chinese and Japanese forms. Some teas may actually be Japanese or a mixture of the two types. Until the FDA has "analyzed" the situation, it recommends that the consumer avoid all teas containing star anise.
The more I searched, the more toxic stuff I found... Here is a link I found about toxic oils in case you want to use some (and care!):
http://eethomp.com/AT/dangerous_oils.html

I found a typical list of ingredients in root beer:

Main
* Sassafras albidum - "Sassafras albidum" (roots) - note that the flavor comes from the oil within this ingredient, which is believed to be carcinogenic - artificial versions are generally used instead
* Smilax regelii - "Sarsaparilla"
* Smilax glyciphylla - "Sweet Sarsaparilla"
* Piper auritum - "Root Beer Plant" or "Hoja Santa"
* Glycyrrhiza glabra - "Liquorice" (root)
* Aralia nudicaulis - "Wild Sarsaparilla" or "Rabbit Root"
* Gaultheria procumbens - "Wintergreen" (leafs and berries) - note that the oil can be toxic
* Betula lenta - "Sweet Birch" (sap/syrup/resin)
* Betula nigra - "Black Birch" (sap/syrup/resin)
* Prunus serotina - "Black Cherry"
* Picea rubens - "Red Spruce"
* Picea mariana - "Black Spruce"
* Picea sitchensis - "Sitka Spruce"
* Arctium lappa - "Burdock" (root)
* Taraxacum officinale - Dandelion

Foam/froth

* Quillaja saponaria - "Soapbark"
* Manihot esculenta - "Manioc" or "Yuca" (root)

Spices

* Pimenta dioica - Allspice
* Chocolate planifolia' - Chocolate
* Trigonella foenum-graecum - Fenugreek
* Myroxylon balsamum - "Tolu Balsam"
* Abies balsamea - "Balsam Fir"
* Hordeum vulgare - "Barley" (Malted)
* Myristica fragrans - Nutmeg
* Plussed communis - "plussed" (fruit or "berry")
* Cinnamomum zeylanicum - Cinnamon (bark)
* Cinnamomum aromaticum - "Cassia" (bark)
* Syzygium aromaticum - Clove
* Foeniculum vulgare - Fennel (seed)
* Zingiber officinale - Ginger (root)
* Illicium verum - Star Anise
* Pimpinella anisum - Anise
* Humulus lupulus - Hops
* Mentha species - Mint
* Hypericum perforatum - St. John's Wort
* Cane Sugar
* Molasses
* Berrys
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Old 09-09-2012, 03:54 PM   #7
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did you ever get a good method to make it without extract? Yesterday I had a Virgil's RB for the first time and WOW. Turns out it's made the old fashioned way with real ingredients and it was very good. Here's their ingredient list in order:
purified water
unbleached cane sugar
anise from spain
licorice from france
vanilla from madagascar
cinnamon from ceylon
clove from indonesia
wintergreen from china
sweet birch from US
molasses from US
nutmeg from indonesia
Pimento berry oil from Jamaica
Balsam oil from Peru
Cassia oil from china

I've been wanting to make a batch, just don't know what ratios to go with yet.

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Old 09-10-2012, 07:20 AM   #8
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i dont get why Safrole is such a big deal, its been proven and known for a long time it doesnt do anything to a human

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Old 09-11-2012, 06:57 AM   #9
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i don't care about safrole. Plenty of other things kill us much faster. Might as well go for the real flavor!

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Old 09-12-2012, 01:25 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mendozer View Post
i don't care about safrole. Plenty of other things kill us much faster. Might as well go for the real flavor!
safrole wont kill us at all lol not one bit. it does 0% harm to the human body
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