Guide to Making Old-Fashioned Root Beer

Make your own root beer using an old-fashioned root beer recipe made with sassafras and sarsaparilla.

| November/December 1971

Reprinted with permission from the Minnesota Earth Journal. 

Root Beer has been a popular soft drink since colonial days when it first appeared among such concoctions as birch beer, ginger beer, spruce beer and sarsaparilla beer. Contrary to present methods of production, the colonial root beer was a mild brew containing 1/2% to 1 3/4% alcohol. Non-acidic, it was recognized as a healthful drink flavored by roots and barks considered to have certain medicinal values.

There are many variations in the formulas and proportions used in making "old-fashioned" root beer.

Here is a Typical  Root Beer Recipe:

A mixture is made by adding 1 1/2 gallons of molasses to 5 gallons of boiling water. This is allowed to stand for three hours.

Then 1/4 pound each of sarsaparilla root, bruised sassafras bark, and birch bark (wintergreen flavor) is added.

Next add 1/2 pint of fresh yeast, and enough water to make about 16 gallons total volume.

Troy Adams_1
1/30/2009 7:20:14 PM

What kind of pot are you all using for this recipe? I have a 5 1/2 gallon stainless steel pot but it wouldn't be able to hold an additional 1 1/2 gallons of molasses.

1/26/2009 10:06:32 AM

Thanks so much for this information! I will definitely putit to good use. deb

1/26/2009 8:52:48 AM

Hi Deb, You can find some great recipes in a book by Stephen Creswell called "Homemade Root Beer, Soda and Pop." You may be able to find a used copy, but it's also available on Amazon. In addition, you can find some root beer recipes--for free-on our Homebrewing Page: I hope this helps! -Tabitha Alterman, Mother Earth News

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