Make Your Own Root Beers

TRADITIONAL SPRING TONICS: ROOTS
By HF Contributing Writer, Tony(a) Lemos

Sassafras, Burdock, Yellowdock, Sarsparilla and Dandelion … these roots, as tonics, are known as blood purifiers that promote the regeneration of the cells and the elimination of toxins by assisting in circulation, digestion and elimination. The brews made up by a combination of these roots are excellent spring tonics and commonly known as ROOT BEERS.

To follow are a few herbal beer recipes I’ve compilied, including my favorite Root Beer and Ginger Beer recipes the kids might like making (and drinking!). I’ve also included a recipe for Nettle Beer for the adults.  

If you are interested about learning more about roots I highly recommend Doug Elliott’s book, Wild Roots: A Forager’s Guide to the Wild Edible and Medicinal Roots, Tubers, Corms, & Rhizomes.


ROOT BEER RECIPE

Most of the plants/roots in this recipe are native to North America, with the exception of Licorice and Sarsaparilla. Any of the plants can be omitted and replaced with a native favorite edible root; however, I find if you omit Licorice it has a very different flavor. You can also use Birch Twigs, Ginger root, mint leaves, orange peel, etc.  Through trial and error you too can formulate your own favorite brew.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 quarts water
  • 4 oz dried Spikenard Root* (Aralia racemosa)
  • 4 oz dried Dandelion Root
  • 5 inches dried Wild Carrot Root [Queen Annes Lace (Daucus carrota)]
  • 1/4 oz dried Sassafras Root
  • 4 teaspoons dried Yellowdock Root
  • 4 teaspoons dried American Ginseng Root** (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons dried Chicory Root
  • 4 teaspoons dried Licorice Root
  • 4 teaspoons dried Sarsaparilla Root (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons dried Sumac Flowering Heads [Red Berries (Smooth)]
  • 1 ½ cups maple syrup/ raw honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon granulated ale yeast.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add herbal ingredients to 2 quarts of water and simmer uncovered for 10- 15 minutes.
  2. Cover pot with lid and allow to simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes.
  3. Pour 2 quarts of cool filtered water into a one gallon glass jug. Strain herbal brew and then add to jug.
  4. While the brew is cooling, mix the ale yeast into a teacup with luke warm water and let sit for a few minutes.
  5. Add the yeast.
  6. Cap and turn over several times to mix well.
  7. Store in a cool place.
  8. You will need to check carbonation in 48-72 hours to avoid exploding bottles. Some people like to cover with balloons for the first 36 hours. As soon as carbonation is right, refrigerate.

This recipe makes 9-11 12 oz bottles. Play with the recipes and have fun!

NOTES:

* If you are using fresh roots use 1/3 more to achieve the same potency.

** Never pick this herb in the wild. Only collect if you have cultivated it. For more info on ethical harvesting check United Plants Savers.


GINGER BEER

The children in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories always had wonderful picnics which nearly always included “lashings of ginger beer!”

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large Lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 cup Pineapple Juice (optional)
  • 5 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
  • 3/4 cup Honey
  • 1 oz (25g) Fresh Root Ringer, peeled and bruised
  • A pinch of Cayenne
  • 4 pints Boiling Water
  • 4 pints Cold Water
  • 15g Fresh Yeast
  • 1 slice Toast

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place the lemon zest, cream of tartar, cayenne and honey in a large bowl or bucket. Add the bruised ginger.
  2. Pour the boiling water over the mix and stir.
  3. Add the cold water, lemon juice and pineapple juice.
  4. Allow to cool until the mix is lukewarm.
  5. Spread the yeast on the toast and float it on the mixture.
  6. Cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place for 24 hours until frothy.
  7. After 24 hours, remove any scum from the top of the mixture.
  8. Discard the toast and syphon the beer into sterilized bottles, avoiding any sediment.
  9. Seal the bottles with screw-caps or corks secured with wire.
  10. Leave for 3 days in a cool place before drinking.
  11. Drink within the following 3 days or the ginger beer will taste too yeasty.

Makes 5 liters (9 pints)


NETTLE BEER (For mommy & daddy)

Before Hops were widely used in the 17th century for making ale, all sorts of plant were used, including Nettles.(Urtica dioica). It was thought to help alleviate rheumatic pain, gout and asthma. Nettle beer can still be bought in the Czech republic and in the north of England where it is brewed with hops and called Internettle.

This is an easy recipe and creates an unusual tasting beer. It is very cheap to make and follows a traditional English recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound/500g Raw Sugar (subsitute with honey)
  • 2 Lemons
  • 1/4 oz fresh Ginger Root
  • 1 ounce/30g Cream of Tartar
  • 5 quarts/5 liters Water
  • 2 pounds Nettle tops
  • 1 ounce/30g Live Yeast

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place sugar, lemon peel (no white), lemon juice, and cream of tartar in a large crock.
  2. Cook nettles in water for 15 minutes.
  3. Strain into the crock and stir well.
  4. When this cools to blood warm, dissolve the yeast in a little water and add to your crock.
  5. Cover with several folds of cloth and let brew for three days.
  6. Strain out sediment and bottle.
  7. Ready to drink in eight days.

About the Author:Tony(a) Lemos is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA and maintains an herbal practice in Northampton, MA. She is also the director of the Children’s Art Museum in Shelburne Falls, MA, and contributing writer for Hilltown Families.

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5 Comments on “Make Your Own Root Beers

  1. What is the ratio water to sassafras root bark to make a blood purifier,and what is the best doseage to take it.

  2. What is the ratio of water to sassafras root bark to make as a blood purifier. what is the best way to take it.

  3. you can get sassafrass on eBay. It is no longer banned and is not a carcinogen.

  4. I’ve recently learned that sassafras root is a carcinogen and therefor very hard to find in the US. I’m curious if there are any suitable substitutes or if root beer would taste good even without it? Have any suggestions?

  5. With the root beer, how do you know when the carbonation is right?

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