When you hear the word “Beer”, a chilled bottle of Kingfisher or Carlsberg or Tuborg as a matter of fact, would flash before your eyes. We have always known beer as an alcoholic beverage, isn’t it? But what if suddenly you get to know that beer can be “non-alcoholic” too? Seems strange, isn’t it? One would speculate “what’s a beer without having alcohol in it?” Well, the word “Beer” actually has two meanings to it; an alcoholic beverage made from cereal grains, or a non-alcoholic beverage flavoured by root extracts.So let’s see How Root Beer Is Made.
What Is Root Beer?
Root beer, traditionally a soft drink (so as to say) is made using the roots of sassafras tree or the vine sarsaparilla as a primary ingredient. Root beer may be alcoholic or non-alcoholic, carbonated or non-carbonated. Just like a beer, it usually has a thick, foamy head when poured. Commercially available, root beer is generally sweet, foamy, carbonated, non-alcoholic, and flavoured using artificial sassafras flavouring.
Most “food historians” say that the first versions of root beer started out as “small beer”. Dating all the way back to Medieval Europe, “small beer” was popular for the medicinal benefits of sassafras and its aromatic flavour which came in from ingredients like herbs, bark, and berries. Water was extremely unsafe to drink at that time because of rampant water pollution and poor public sanitation. Healthier to drink than possibly contaminated local sources of drinking water, brewed beverages like tea and beer were considered safer. The medicinal and nutritional qualities of the ingredients used led to its widespread, where commoners used it to stay hydrated.
Since the 16th century sassafras root beverages were made by indigenous people of the Americas for culinary and medicinal reasons. With the arrival of Europeans and their culinary practices, production of traditional sassafras-based beverages (similar to root beer) became prevalent. In the early 1850’s root beer was sold as syrup rather than a ready-made beverage in stores.
Pharmacist Charles Elmer Hires was the first to successfully market a commercial brand of root beer. Although, there have been evidences of original recipes coming in from native Americans 10 to 20 years before he began to sell his version. He developed his “root tea” made from sassafras in 1875 and launched his commercial version of root beer. Though he wanted to call it “root tea”, but later decided to market it as “root beer” to appeal to the large market of hard-drinking Pennsylvania coal-miners.
What It’s Made Up Of? | How Root Beer Is Made
The basic ingredients of a traditional root beer includes wintergreen leaves, sarsaparilla root, sassafras root, hops flower, birch bark, coriander, juniper berries, ginger root, dandelion root, wild cherry bark, vanilla beans, molasses, and licorice root.
Many of these ingredients are still used in traditional and commercially produced root beer today, which is often thickened, foamed, or carbonated. It’s interesting to know that, Soybean protein is also sometimes incorporated to give the beer a foamy texture and caramel colour for to the beverage.
Commercially, yeast in some of the recipes it is used to ferment the wort.
How Root Beer is made?
Safrole, the aromatic oil from sassafras roots and bark gave traditional root beer its characteristic flavour. But in 1960 Food and Drug Administration had imposed a ban on the usage of this compound due to its carcinogenicity. Since then artificial flavouring compounds have been developed and used by companies to preserve the flavour of the sassafras root.
The steps in making Root Beer are as follows:
All the dry ingredients like sassafras root bark, birch bark, sarsaparilla root, licorice root, ginger root, vanilla beans etc are added to water into a medium pot and brought to a boil.
After boiling it for few minutes, the liquid mixture is taken off from heat. It is covered and kept for steeping for a couple of hours, till maximum flavours are extracted into the liquid.
After steeping the root-infused liquid, it is strained using a cheesecloth lined sieve into a large container. The concoction is diluted with the addition of filtered water to the required volume and set to cool. The solids are discarded.
Sugar or molasses along with dry yeast is stirred into the cooled root-infused liquid. It is kept aside for about 30 mins for fermentation process to proceed.
- BOTTLING And AGEING:
The liquid is transferred into bottles and tightly sealed. It is set at room temperature for fermentation for 3-4 days then transferred to the refrigerator for an additional two days to age.
According to United States Department of Agriculture, 100 ml of root beer contains about 11g of sugar. Popular commercial root beer brands and their sugar contents are as follows:
- A&W Root Beer- 43g/oz
- IBC Root Beer- 43 g/oz
- Hires’ Root Beer- 44g/oz
- Barq’s Root Beer- 45g/oz
Averaging it out there is about 44g of sugars present in a 12oz (355ml) can of root beer.
Calories in the root beer are mainly due to the added sugars or molasses in it. There are approximately 160 calories in 12 oz (355ml) of root beer. Carbohydrates are the major constituents of root beer and have no nutritional content in terms of fat, protein, ibre or vitamins. Sodium can be found in traces.