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I picked up some rootbeer extract at my local brewshop, and I've made a few batches in old soda bottles... but is it possible brew it with an alcohol content similar to that of beer?

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Step one - brew awesome root beer. Step two - add vodka or other distilled spirit to taste or mindset. –  bmike Jun 25 '12 at 0:43

8 Answers 8

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Making a (good) hard root beer sounds tricky. At least, the traditional method of brewing root beer doesn't seem like it would scale well to the weeks-of-fermentation beer brewing model. I imagine in the end, while you would have higher alcohol content, too much of the sugar will have been fermented, so you'd end up with a few gallons of not very sweet liquid (e.g., not root beer).

One approach might be to start with a base fermentable (maybe some sort of wheat/pale dry malt extract combined with honey) that had a light profile in tandem with traditional root beer extract, replace/enhance traditional hops additions with herbs specific to root beer brewing, reach your target gravity, and add heaps of sugar prior to bottling for desired sweetness. From here, you could bottle and pasteurize to stop the yeast from eating all the added sugar.

With all this said, the easy solution (which might yield tastier results) is to start with your favorite homemade root beer recipe and pour in copious amounts of your favorite distilled beverage!

If you go the route of experimentation, be sure to share any successful recipes!

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I just finished making a 5gal batch of natural root beer using danelion root, burdock root and sassafras, along a small amount of wheatgrass and beet juice (for colour).

I used a combination of white sugar, honey and mollasses to ferment and a combination of lactose and stevia to sweeten. I reused an English Ale yeast from an IPA I made a while ago and bottle conditioned

I transferred to secondary and tasted and was good but a little bland. I primed with corn sugar and bottled 2 gallons to see what it tastes like carbonated. To the remaining 3gal I added 1oz of centinnial hops boiled for 30m. It now has more hop bitterness and flavour but think it could still use a little more hop flavour so plan on boiling 1oz cascade for 15 mins to get some more flavour/aroma. Will then re-prime and bottle the rest.

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18# gw base malt, 2# choc., 4oz black or roast barley, 1# oats or flaked barley. Used 2nd runnings for root beer stout. to boil add 1 pt. molasses + 1 c. pale dry extract + 2oz root beer extract. lightly hop with 2 oz cascade. ferment as usual. og 1.065 fg 1.013 . kegged & force carbonated. sweeter than typ. ales, dryer than sodas. many compliments, 34 year old neice said best beer ever.

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Yes you can make root beer have an alcohol percentage close to beer. You follow the instructions on a root beer kit except add more sugar. Then you let the root beer sit in the bottles with the cap opened, this is to ferment them. Adding the extra sugar gives the yeast more to "eat" to ferment more and to still make it sweet after around 1-2 weeks of fermentation. After the 1-2 weeks put the cap on for a 1-2 days or until the bottle gets pressurized. put the bottles in your fridge and the longer they stay in the better they will taste!

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Add sugar and ferment it to completion. Done.

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I went through exactly this about 9 months ago. I couldn't find anything online about it, so I used a basic cider as the inspiration. Here are the exact notes I took while brewing it. Some sections were direct copies from the cider recipe, I added the rest.

1lb Munton’s Dry Malt

2Fl Oz Root Beer Concentrate

¾ cup priming sugar

5lbs granulated sugar

Hefeweisen Ale Yeast WLP300

  1. Pour 1 gallon of water in pot and bring to a boil. Add Dry Malt and stir.
  2. Dissolve the sugar in the heated juice. Stir frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved. Use a wooden or plastic spoon.
  3. Mix the liquid with the dissolved sugar into the bucket with the rest of the water, stirring thoroughly. Temp was at 79 degrees.
  4. Add yeast to the liquid in the bucket. Mix well.
  5. Put the lid on, tightly. Install the airlock and place the bucket somewhere out of the way, but with a steady temperature, usually around 70 degrees.

***After 1 day, bubbling stopped. I left it for another week with no change. Beer Nut rep suggested adding more yeast. WLP001 California Ale was added 1/23/10. I also picked up a hydrometer. Readings as follows: 5.5%, 11, 1.045 @ ~65 deg. Root Beer was bitter tasting and ended with .5 grav after adding bottling sugar. I bottled half with only that sugar, then boiled 1/3 cup of sugar and threw that in with the other half. The mixture was very cloudy (looked like mud).

Unfortunately, my hydrometer broke before I could take the first reading, but I'll tell you that it was a very high alcohol content. The resulting drink was a bit like a sarsaparilla without a whole lot of sugar. However, my girlfriend and I drank it like crazy. It was odd, but good.

Changes I would make: 1) Only dissolve about half the original sugar at the start; add the rest when bottling (just have to make sure you let the CO2 work the O2 out of the bottles before capping so you don't get little beer bombs). 2) Wait to add flavor until bottling. 3) Start with California Yeast

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Hefe yeast! That sounds awful. –  brewchez Jun 23 '12 at 13:14

You'll have trouble with the sugars fermenting.

One option, which may or may not work, is to make the 'beer' to your target alcohol percentage, then filter it really good to pull out as much yeast as possible, and then perhaps add a potasium metabisulfite tablet or two to retard any remaining yeast. You could then add your sugar sweeteners without them fermenting, hopefully.

Another option would be to go crazy with some non-fermentable lactose sugar (what's used to sweeten milk stouts).

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Why would there be trouble with fermenting the sugars? –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Mar 1 '13 at 18:42

I once had a delicious "American Cervesa" that was kegged into an uncleaned root beer keg. It was really freaking delicious. Definitely had a noticeable root beer flavor.

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+1 for throwing sanitation to the wind –  nbushnell May 3 '11 at 20:06
    
I have had beers have a 'root beer' essence in a cleaned and sanitzed keg formerly used for root beer - even just a cleaned and sanitized picnic tap and hose - root beer is very strong and persistent! –  Wyrmwood Jun 11 at 2:18

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