Jan 072012

I am never one to vow in vain. So this past Christmas vacation, as I had returned to my homeland, I gathered my brothers to the kitchen to have our second go at root beer brewing. Since the last time was rather less than tasty, I had been pondering deeply on how to make it better. Since it was too watery the first time I started with a full cup less water. It wasn’t creamy as well so I added a tablespoon of vanilla extract to the water. Since there was a distinct lack of spices I added 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. I added the spices and vanilla extract to the water and boiled it for a few minutes. I let it cool until it was warm and then we followed the root beer recipe as given in the instructions. The only other change we made was to add a full extra cup of honey. Not just any honey though. We added Hartman Honey. A raw honey sold in 10 pound tubs by a local bee keeper who retired a few years ago. And I must say it is the most epic honey I’ve ever had in my life. But since he has retired, you can’t buy it any more so we were using some of the last in the world. You’ve got to use it for something though. Since my parents were watching the Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the adjacent room, our pageantry was much reduced since our attentions were torn (the Twinners hadn’t seen that movie yet) but it was still a great time. After we bottled it we let it carbonate for two days as before. We enjoyed our creation on my Dad’s birthday with a fine meal of barbecued short ribs, chicken, and all of the fixin’s. I had a second bottle the next day for the official taste test.

The first thing that was noticed was a significant improvement in the Head as seen from the picture below. That picture was also taken about a minute after it was poured so you can get an idea of just how amazing the Head had become. It was very frothy and lingered for a very long time. I suspect it was the honey, which increased the viscosity so the froth lingered more. The extra sugar also increased the carbonation by giving the yeast more to eat. The Body was also much better. It had a medium Body to it though it wasn’t watery. It was also creamy. The honey flavor was a tad too strong and it also gave a hint of fruity to the brew. The Bite was decent from both spices and carbonation, but the spice flavors were a little too strong as well. The Aftertaste was a spicy honey and vanilla flavor.

So this was quite an improvement over last time but it was still a little off. The first time it was lacking and this time was a bit too much of the good stuff. Definitely a step in the right direction in a Newton’s Method sort of way. I must say that I actually enjoyed it with the meal and would recommend it over the original recipe any day. I give it 3 1/2 kegs with it barely squeaking in that last half a keg. Though now that we are out of the Mr. Root Beer kit ingredients, I think that we will start brewing using McCormick extract so look for some more fun recipes in the future.

The epic Head on our root beer. This was taken a full minute after being poured.

Nov 272011

So last year for Christmas my aunt gave my younger brothers (identical twins a.k.a. The Twinners) the Mr. Root Beer Kit. I thought it was funny because I’m the one so into root beer but whatever, it uses plastic bottles and extract anyways so I wouldn’t really drink it. Fast forward to Nov. 5th, day of the launch party for gourmetrootbeer.com, my parents told me that my younger brothers didn’t want the Mr. Root Beer kit and that I could have it. Well, that didn’t seem right to me, plus I’ll only drink from glass bottles (or on tap from kegs, or growlers). I noticed that The Twinners had some empty spring top bottles and the idea hit me, we can just make it in those. But, I’d need more time. So I told my parents that it would be a great family (or brotherly) activity and we’d do it over Thanksgiving break. In that time I acquired another spring top bottle.

So this last Wednesday, after dinner, I announced that it was time to make root beer. The Twinners gathered and we began to read the instructions. We didn’t have any dark brown sugar so a quick trip to the store was in order. Then it was back to work. My Mom thought it would be a good thing to video tape for a family memory or something (I may post it here someday), so we had to wait again for her to get the camera on the tripod. The next half an hour was spent over dramatically reading the instructions, adding the ingredients, improvising song and dance routines about what we were adding, and generally having way too much fun making root beer. We then bottled our results and left them in a cabinet in the laundry room.

After two days the few plastic bottles that we had used were nice and firm so we brought them to the refrigerator to chill over night. Then, yesterday we popped open the bottles with BBQ’d burgers and chicken to try this stuff out. I had another spring top bottle this morning just to confirm my thoughts.

Well, the Body is not very sweet. This makes sense since there is only 2 cups of sugar for a gallon of root beer, but the yeast that you add eats a lot of that. It also wasn’t very creamy and was kind of watered down. The core root beer flavor was there though. There wasn’t really much Bite at all, which was a shame. The Head was decent considering it was only allowed to sit with the yeast for 2 days. The plastic bottles seemed to give better Heads than the glass spring top bottles. The glass bottles had the classic Two Second Head but then still had a lot of carbonation. The Aftertaste was slightly fruity root beer flavor. If you poured out the entire bottle though, the yeast solids that had settled would then get stirred up and you would have a very yeasty root beer, which was pretty nasty.

So overall it was a pretty fun experiment even thought the result was rather subpar. Since we can make another batch, we are going to try that over Christmas vacation. Of course I’m going to add additional seasonings to fix the shortcomings so hopefully we get a better brew. As it stands, just following the recipe the way we did, it only gets two kegs.

The Twinners and I pouring the root beer in the bottle. Clearly it would take three people to properly pour it.

When all was said and done, our bottles of root beer.

The victorious brothers with their root beers.