Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to make craft brewed root beer from scratch without the use of extracts

I've been making soda for almost 18 years.  It is a hobby of mine.
The art of crafting a good soft drink, requires a good amount of research and a lot of experimentation.

About two years ago I did a search on youtube for "how to make root beer". The results were pretty disappointing. I was hoping to see what others had done and compare notes, but I could not find a single video on how to make root beer from scratch.  Every single video used a commercial extract.  This would not do! I decided to take it upon myself to teach anyone who wanted to know, exactly how to make root beer from scratch using natural ingredients, the way it was done 100 years ago.

I started right away.  That night I brewed batch of root beer. I make sure to record the footage so that I could produce a video to put on youtube. A few days later I began editing... and editing... and editing... finally I had a rough draft. But it was really rough and I needed to fill in some information gaps and to shoot more footage.

A few months went by and I was ready to brew another batch.  I recorded the extra clips that I needed, but this time I sat on the footage for about a year. This was mostly due to lack of motivation and the dread of editing more video.

Finally I got my inspiration back. Thanks to two 6 hour airplane rides across the US, and had plenty of time to begin working on the video again. This time I was determined to finish. It took a bit of work, but I am pretty pleased with the results.

I hope you enjoy it. I had fun making it, and the soda too. Please feel free post comments. If you ask me questions I will answer them. You can post them on this blog, on Youtube, or on twitter.  I am more than happy to discuss anything soda with you.

If you want to try your hand at making root beer from scratch, please do it. It's not that difficult, it tastes great, and is a lot of fun.

Some people may be concerned about the use of yeast.  Don't worry you temperance minded people. The amount of alcohol produced is extremely minute! You are not fully fermenting the drink like you would beer. You are just fermenting enough to get the desired carbonation, and then that process is stopped by chilling the soda.  If you are truly concerned you and force carbonate using a keg and CO2 @ 30 psi for 3-5 days. If you have a soda stream machine, or even better, a Carbonater cap for 2 liter bottles, that will work too.

There are several down sides to forcing carbonation with CO2:
  • The carbonation does not persist very long (but the soda still has a good head due to the sassafras)
  • It is difficult to bottle - There is a big of carbonation if the bottles are not extremely cold when bottling.
  • You loose a bit of complexity in the flavors.
If you do choose to force carbonate there are some up sides too:
  • You can serve right from the keg.
  • No yeast flavor hints (some people can't stand the hint of yeast)
  • Individual yeast carbonated batches can be produced by putting a bit of the flat beverage into a bottle and adding the yeast as instructed in the video.
Well, that pretty much wraps up this home brewing blog post.  Thanks for reading and watching. Let me know what you think. I look forward to your feedback.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog casts it shadow on the bottle cap!

120 years ago today, the patent for bottle caps was approved (U.S. Patent 468,258). This might not seem so significant, but if you take a moment out of your groundhogs day to ponder how much this device is actually used, pehaps you'll gain a new found appreciation for the infamous bottle topper.
Here are a few links you can use to read more on the subject:

While discussing the topic of bottle caps with a co-worker, the subject of pattents and how they have changed over the years came up.  He suggested a book to me which seems like it would be a pretty good read: Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. Have a gander it may change your view on modern patents and copyright law. It's pretty relevant right now, especially with all that is happening with SOPA and PIPA.

While we are on the topic of bottle caps! I wanted to mention two great places to get custom bottle caps made for your home brew projects or special events.  Both of them do great work, and I highly recommend them.

Well, that pretty much wraps up this blog post.
May the rest of your day be enjoyable.
I hope you get a few laughs tonight while you watch Bill Murray.
Oh, and don't forget to thank William Painter (the inventor) for keeping the drink in that bottle for you, and for keeping it carbonated.