I didn’t leave the house all weekend. It was fall with a vengance. It was grey and overcast. It was chilly. It rained
When John and I were at 12th Night in Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago, we attended a class on brewing root beer.
It turns out that brewing root beer is ridiculously easy (the “recipes” for root/birch/ginger beer are much more forgiving then most standard beer recipes) and if you already have all of the standard beer-brewing equipment (like we do) then you can make 4 gallons of root beer for about the cost of buying a single 12-pack.
The trial size batch that we participated in making at 12th night turned out well, so we decided to try a full-sized batch.
All you really need to make birch, root, or ginger beer is:
It is a pretty easy and short list of ingredients.
You start out by proofing the yeast. Take a nice, clean glass and add in a 1/2 cup of warm water and your yeast. Mix it until the yeast dissolves and then add in about a teaspoon of your sweetener. You will want to let it sit for 10-15 minutes, or until it has doubled in volume.
A very important word about the yeast: you want to use a complete 7g packet of baker’s yeast. If you use less yeast, your tasty beverage may be tasty, but it will not be carbonated. One of the extracts that we got came with a conflicting recipe that used a significantly smaller portion of yeast then the recipe that we tried with great success at 12th Night. My reaction to the smaller portion of yeast – “We use more yeast then that for bread!”. John responded by doubling the amount that the conflicting recipe called for, which turned out to still not be enough. The resulting birch beer was very tasty indeed (I am drinking some right now) but decidedly flat.
Okay… continuing on with the directions. While your yeast is proofing, add your sweetener (2 lbs of honey or 4 cups of sugar) to 2.5 gallons of water and stir until everything is all dissolved together. Add in the extract, and keep stirring. By this time, the yeast solution should have doubled in size and be good to go. Add that in as well and keep stirring for a few more minutes to make sure that everything is completely aerated.
Using a standard beer-brewing siphon, immeadietly bottle the root beer and cap the root beer. You should leave about 1.5 inches of headspace in the bottles to allow room for the gas to compress.
Let them sit for at least 72 hours (three full days) at standard room temperature. Any hotter or colder could interfere with the fermentation process.
At the end of the three days, the carbolic acid will have killed the yeast and stopped the fermentation process (the actual alcohol content of the root beer will be negligible – less then that of commercial orange juice) and the root beer will be ready to drink.
That’s it. Three days from start to finish and you will have almost 3 gallons of delicious root beer for about the cost of a 12-pack of commercial root beer.
I swear… John and I need a beer cellar like other people need a wine cellar. Between the hard cider (bottled in late September), the birch beer (bottled a few weeks ago), the double bock (bottled last week) and the coffee-chocolate stout (still bubbling away in the carboy) we have lots and lots of cases of stuff hanging out around here.
We don’t really want to label our stuff (unless we are giving it away as presents) because all of the bottles get washed out, sterilized, and reused, and it is a big pain in the ass to soak and scrub paper labels off of beer bottles… but we do need to work out some kind of better organizational system so that it is a little bit less of a guessing game as to which bottles contain what concoction.