I brewed my first root beer this week and was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. I wanted to share the recipe, and a few tweaks I'm going to try next time around. The recipe is mostly the Virgil's clone that you can find in google, but I supplemented it with some of the fine discussions that have already gone on through these boards. Drinking it as I type!
Recipe yields enough for 4L (2 2L bottles):
1) Put 5 quarts of water into the brew pot, and start to heat up. I wasn't sure if the water needed to boil, or just needed to be hot enough to steep the ingredients (155-175ish F), so I aimed for the latter. It worked out great. The pot probably averaged around 175-180F. NOTE: Since it is not boiling, there is greater risk for bacteria unless you sanitize everything.
2) While heating, add the following:
- 2 oz. of Sarsaparilla Root (I used the Brewer's Best pack)
- 1 oz. Crushed Raisins
- roughly an inch of licorice from a brewer's stick (got at LHBS)
- 4 Star Anise Pods, crushed (Brewer's Best pack)
- 1 cinnamon stick approx. 4 inches long
- 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract (or 1 split vanilla bean)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 cups of table sugar
- 2 tablespoons of molasses (used Crosby brand, it's Canadian)
3) I let all of this simmer/steep in the brewpot for about an hour, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
4) After turning off the heat, I added one tablespoon Wintergreen while the pot cooled.
5) I put the brewpot in the sink with ice water to cool to around 75 degrees (about 15-20 minutes)
6) I then funneled the pot into a sanitized bucket, using the mesh to catch all the leftover ingredients.
7) I then mixed in 1/4 teaspoon of dry active baker's yeast, and aerated quite a bit, leaving it sit for a few minutes.
8) Funneled into the 2 liter bottles, leaving about 1 to 1.5 inches of space at the top. Shook each bottle vigorously for about 10 seconds, then recapped the bottles. For the 2 liter bottles, I found Tonic Water for $0.89 at the supermarket, and used those. Worked fine.
9) Waited about 24 hours, until the bottles became hard enough, and put in the fridge. As with brewing beer, it takes a good 5-6 hours for the yeast to really start working.
- I was very nervous about the dry active baker's yeast. It only cost like $1.50 for 3 packs of it at a local supermarket. I wasn't sure if I should use ale or champagne, but the baker's yeast worked really well, and the yeast taste is hardly noticeable (I'm not quite sure what yeast tastes like, to be honest). Would I taste it as part of an aftertaste?
- Hard to complain, but I want to make the next batch a little spicier, so I might add a few (5) pieces of whole Allspice to the mix. Should I crush this?
- I also want to try out some other combinations of roots for the next batch(es). Since I'm in Toronto, Sassafras is sold in store (perk). I might try straight Sassafras in a batch, a Sassafras/Sarsparilla mix, and then maybe some Birch Bark as well. I'm sure fresher root ingredients will also make it taste a little bitter. Should I up from the 2 oz of root to maybe 3 oz total?
Here's a picture of the brewpot and the finished glass. Is the color dark enough?