Make Your Own Root Beer

You can make a root beer to suit your own taste with a simple recipe of root beer extract, club soda, and a sugar base syrup.

| June/July 1992

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    The author's sons, Mark and MIchael, enjoying some of Dad's homemade root beer.
  • root beer
    Make sweet, frothy root beer all on your own
    Photo by Fotolia/Kungverylucky

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  • root beer

The sound of coins dropping into a pop machine will forever take me back to my childhood, and a summer I will never forget. My best friend and I had a daily ritual of walking over to Paul and Louis' gas station for a bottle of pop. We would drop our 15 cents into the slot and out would come the coldest, creamiest root beer we'd ever tasted. Almost every day without fail, we would sit by the air hose and drink our pop.

My best friend's parents owned the local grocery store. Little did they know, but we thought they also owned the key to our future. On a back shelf in the store, they kept root beer extract. Why not try making our own root beer at home, we thought? We'd have all the root beer we could drink, and enough left over to sell to our friends. It was the best idea of the summer; so we went to work. We would put Paul and Louis out of business, and get rich with our own root beer.

There we were in his kitchen mixing the ingredients: sugar, water, and extract. We weren't quite sure what the yeast was for, but we dropped it in anyway. Before we knew it, we were putting corks in the bottles. The instructions said to store the bottles in a cool, dry place for a week so that the carbonation process could take place. We decided to put them on a shelf in the basement, and every afternoon we would head downstairs to check our creation. We didn't see any change in the bottles, not even after we shook them. Well, it had only been a couple of days.

Sometime during the third night, it happened. The sugar, water, yeast, and extract turned our brown juice into carbonated root beer. The corks started to blow, and our root beer blew out all over the basement floor. There was just enough left in the bottom of the bottles for us to get a little taste. Much to our dismay, the homemade root beer that was going to make us rich tasted like flat, brown, yeasty soup. We switched to cola for the rest of the summer, and Paul and Louis continued to receive our 15 cents every afternoon. To be perfectly honest, it was several years before I could bring myself to try making another root beer.

Root beer has a rich history dating back as far as Colonial America. Every farm wife had her own secret recipe of herbs, roots, and spice that she would brew into root beer. The name "root beer" comes from the roots used in the recipe. Today, America has a tremendous sweet tooth; and our soda pop is much sweeter than the pop produced even 50 years ago. That's one reason why it can be so rewarding to make your own root beer: you can make it to suit your own taste.

Soda Fountain Method

The difficult part about brewing root beer, or any flavored soda, is creating the little CO2 bubbles that we are all so fond of. They can be chemically produced through the brewing process, which takes equipment, patience, and a fair amount of skill. There is a much easier way that produces a very high quality product—the soda fountain method.

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