It’s hard to believe summer has come and gone. I sit here on Labor Day grilling a turkey breast and anticipating Fall, yet cherishing the memory of a brief fleeting summer vacation, I enjoyed. All the while driving through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I spied Birch Trees and couldn’t wait to start a home brewing project of root beer. I love the idea of root beer, a natural soda devised as a sort of medicinal tonic from our earliest settlers. I saw an article on Serious Eats while checking my emails on my XYBoard, during lunch, and knew this project was for me. I wasn’t put off on finding the ingredients. My XYBoard lead me to a neighborhood herb shop for sassafras, birch bark, and sarsaparilla, as well a local home-brew shop for ale yeast and great advice. I really don’t know how I survived without this nifty new tablet. The smart phones are great , but I get that same ease of portability, clearer larger pictures taking, fonts, voice controlled key board options, navigation, and heaps of smart technology “on the go”. So its indispensable in the kitchen, traveling, and living everyday life. All of the root beer snaps were taken with the XYBoard to record the process.
I brewed up this recipe for root beer but I tweaked it a little with the addition of a handful of dried cherries and a few juniper berries. Rather than spend $22 for a case of plastic bottles for soda, I purchased a case of water which I used the contents of, and saved the bottles for the brew. Because of the carbonation process, the thin water bottles swelled , and I believe the more expensive bottles would have alleviated that issue. But , next time I know better. Be careful with glass bottles, as the pressure may cause them to explode. I could have pushed my carbonation one more day before retarding the yeast, by refrigeration.
One more note… Commercial root beer these days not contain Sassafras roots due to safrole, which the FDA has banned in commercial production and labeled as causing liver cancer .However some extracts are used for culinary purposes with the safrole having been removed.The safrole oil is used to make Ecstasy. The consumed amounts needed to be carcinogenic , would be large. But if we look to history,and the Native Americans, they used it to cure many ills. So the message is everything in moderation. Many soda makers, home brewers and hobbyists aren’t deterred in their use of sassafras.
So there you have it. Summer is just about over. So what better way to go out than sipping on a homemade root beer with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream to make a float? A Root beer float is old-fashioned, simple, and the essence of summer.