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I was enjoying some craft sodas with some friends wile brewing a saison recently, and the idea of a sarsaparilla beer occurred to me as a not terrible idea. My instinct is to go with a pale ale (or IPA?), but maybe a stout or porter would work well too.

Has this been done before? When should I add the sarsaparilla (boil, post-boil, secondary, etc.), and in what form (extract, dried roots, etc.)? Does it make sense to add the other ingredients typically included in sarsaparilla soda (like sassafras, licorice, and wintergreen)?

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My take on this type of experiment is to leave yourself a good exit. Make a great Porter or Pale ale on its own. Then blend it with your favorite sarsaparilla soda to see if the flavor combo works for you. That way you still have a decent beer to drink if its not so great.

You might be able to find sarsaparilla soda extract that you could add to different commercial styles of beer. That way you can figure out which base beer style may work best too.

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This is a great suggestion, and I will do just as you suggest this weekend. I'll comment with some of my thoughts after the tastings. But, do you have any advice as to when in the brewing process the sarsaparilla should be added? –  Bill Aug 27 '10 at 17:09
    
IF you use a sarsaparilla extract, I'd add it at bottling to taste. Otherwise, secondary I suppose. But a flavoring extract is the way to go in my book. More control and more predictable results. –  brewchez Aug 28 '10 at 15:23
    
I have been unable to get the sarsaparilla extract so far, but I did experiment with birch extract in a pale ale, an IPA, a porter, and an imperial stout. It seemed like it was best to stay away from hoppy beers since the flavors were not complementary. The birch worked best with the porter and imperial stout. A standard stout might also be a good fit. Of course, I'm not convinced I actually <i>liked</i> any of these beers, but the porter was drinkable with a decent amount of birch extract. –  Bill Sep 8 '10 at 22:22
    
Hey thanks for the follow up. I hope that method helped you make some decisions about what you are doing going forward. If you aren't convinced you like the flavor profile, maybe a half batch would be a good place to start. –  brewchez Sep 9 '10 at 10:42
    
Good idea. I've been looking into getting bottles to ferment 1 or 2 gallon batches of beer so I can do this experiment on a smaller scale with my homebrews. –  Bill Sep 17 '10 at 16:39

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