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November 2006 Archives

November 4, 2006

Root Beer! Batch 1

I don't use this Blog for anything else, I might as well use it to post and keep track of my receipies as I try them.

For starters, let me point out that today is Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day. A coworker of mine offered up to teach some folks how to brew. I don't drink alcohol (that's right. None at all), but I was still curious about the process. This is the same friend who made me a batch of root beer earlier this year, which came out quite tasty, but definitely had some room for improvement.

After leaving Dave's place, my friend Nick and I stopped by the local brew supply store, Doc's Cellar, and picked up a Tap-a-Draft system. In short, it's a 6 liter bottle that takes two 8 gram CO2 cartridges and carbinates "stuff" (either beer or soda) in your normal fridge. Including a box of 10 cartitrdges, $62. Could've gotten it cheaper on the net, but who cares. Not much cheaper, I like supporting local businesses, and I would've had to wait. :-p

Looking through a receipy book, I found one that, with a few modifications, would suit my needs. here it is:

.5 oz Sassafrass root bark, from Grande Foods in AG (typical "hippy" health food store)
1c loosely packed Molassis brown sugar from TJs
2c loosely packed "normal" brown sugar from Albertsons
1 vanilla bean, guts scrapped out, husk used too
2qt water
2qt(ish) ice
2qt(ish) water

Make sure all water and ice used is (or is made from) good quality filtered water.

Put sassafrass root bark, all sugar, vanilla bean guts and husk into 2qt water, bring to a boil sturring to dissolve sugar. simmer for 25 minutes with lid on. Turn off heat, let sit for another 25 minutes with lid still on. strain into 8qt pot, removing all "chunky" bits. Add ice to drop temprature. When mixture is no longer warm enough to quickly melt the ice, laddle mixture into bottle of Tap-a-Draft system and fill the rest of the way with water. Cap up, insert cartridges, and stow in fridge for a week before drinking.

I'll be sure to update this post when I've had my first drink. But, I'll say, it sure smelled good while making it. :)

*UPDATE* 2006-11-05
Curriosity got the best of me and I tasted the batch last night before going to bed. Realize that it has _NO_ CO2 in it right now, so no carbonic acid, so the flavor is going to be very different in a few days. But, it was kinda sweet for my taste. We'll see how it does after it carbonates a bit.

Curriosity got the best of me _AGAIN_, and I tasted it again this morning. I'm glad I did. It was totally flat. No pressure left in the cartridges or bottle or anything. Apparently, there's a slow CO2 leak in the Tap-a-Draft I got.

While Cindy and I were out shopping in SLO today, I stopped by Doc's Cellar. The guy who sold it to me yesterday admited that the one I got had been sitting on the shelf for quite awhile, so the gaskets might not have been as soft and flexible as they could've been. He gave me a newer one to take home, and bring back the old one when I can. I've hooked up the new one and repressurized using two new cartridges. We'll see how this one holds up.

*UPDATE* 2006-11-25
After the swapped out Tap-a-draft, it took carbonation pretty well. The problem is, even with the new tap-a-draft, it still takes 4 cartridges to carbonate a 6L batch, and even then it's not very fizzy. I think the new one might have a very small leak in it somewhere. I'm going to look for it soon. But, for now, two more posts with receipies.

November 25, 2006

Root Beer! Batch 2

Two weekends ago, after I finished bottling or drinking the first batch, I made a second batch. This time from a root beer extract syrup. The recipes on the bottle of extract a) don't agree with each other rather dramatically, and b) are for a 10gallon batch anyway, so some modifications and scaling were in order. I settled on:

4tsp Root beer extract
3c table sugar (just the boring white stuff)
.5tsp Vanilla extract
2qt boiling water
2qt(ish) ice
2qt(ish) water

As usual, make sure the water and ice come from a good source.

The usual procedure applies: Boil water, add extract, sugar and vanilla, mix well. Let boil for a couple minutes (no ingredients to steep). Add ice to cool down. Ladel mixture into Tap-a-draft and fill the rest of the way with remaining water. Put tap on, insert cartridges, stow in fridge. After 2 to 3 days, replace the CO2 cartridges. After a total of 7 days, bottle.

This root beer is pretty sweet, and low on carbonation, even after 4 cartridges. I think I may still have a very slow leak. However, it tasted much more like rootbeer you get in the store, and therefore will have a wider appeal, I suspect. likes it, so that's a good start. I want to get a bottle to ; she didn't like my last batch because it didn't taste like what she expected it to. I've also given a couple bottles to Josh and Laura (LJ unknown) to get their opinions.

Oh! Something I didn't mention yet: I actually purchased a set of 12 "flip top" bottles, similar to these but taller, with straight sides. They're still 16oz bottles, though. Anyway. This was the first batch I bottled after carbonating. Makes it easier to store and consume a little bit at a time, and allows me to start brewing the next batch before finishing off this one. *evil grin*

Root Beer! Batch 3

BTW: , you happy now? I'm cross posting to LJ. :)

This is my third batch of root beer that I've just made tonight. And, this one tastes pretty good already. :)

Tonight's recipe:

.75oz Sassafras root bark (about)
.25oz Sassperilla root bark (about)
2 whole star annises
1 vanilla bean, guts scraped out
1c table sugar (just the plain white stuff)
1c packed brown sugar
2qt boiling water
1qt(ish) ice
3qt(ish) water

Add sugar and vanilla guts to boiling water. Put the barks, star annises and vanilla bean husk into a fine mesh bag (kinda looks like a large tea bag; picked it up at Doc's Cellars), put in boiling water. Boil for 15 minutes, stiring occationally. Remove bag. Add ice to cool mixture. Realize that you didn't have enough ice and should've gotten more to cool it down more. Oh well. Laddel mixture into sanitized Tap-a-draft bottle, fill the rest of the way up with water. Add a bit of food-grade petrol-greese to the gaskets around the bottle lid and the cartridges. Cap, pressurize with 1 CO2 cartridge and 1 N2O cartridge, stow in fridge.

While boiling this batch, I tasted it and it tastes _GOOD_. All the other batchs I did tasted "eh" at this stage and got better as the tastes mellowed. I hope this is a good thing with this batch. :)

Note a few differences:
- There is about twice as much flavoring ingredients in this batch as the first batch. This is in response to the comments I got about the first batch, that it was a little lacking on flavor.
- I used some Sassperilla bark and a couple star annises, in addition to the sassafras bark.
- There is 2/3 the sugar. I'm not 100% sure why I did this. The extract batch was kinda sweet, and it had 3 cups, so I thought I'd go down a notch.
- I used a CO2 cartridge and an N2O cartridge; previously, I only used CO2. Hopefully, the nitrogen will give it a thicker head.

Ideas for future batches:
- Honey instead of sugar.
- Malted barley instead of sugar. Ask anyone who does home-brewed beer, you can extract an awful lot of sugars and flavor from a pound of barley. I'd be interested to try this and see what the outcome tastes like. When my friend Dave was showing me how to do home brew, he let us taste the barley he was going to use for his next batch, and _DAMN_, that was good.
- Half-and-half batch, brewed ingredients and extract. Might make it a little more pallatable for those who like "conventional" rootbeers, but still be something special.
- Birch Bark. My local hippy store doesn't stock it, but can order it for me: 1lb for $8. 1lb is a lot of birch bark, but $8 isn't a lot of money, so I'm thinking about doing it. :-)

November 30, 2006

Root Beer, Batch 3 bottled.

I bottled batch 3 tonight, so I've got a chance to taste it.

Verdict: Interesting. Not bad, but not as good as I remember it when I first brewed it.

A couple notes:
- I used the bag to contain all the bits and didn't actually strain it before carbonating it. Concequently, there are little bits of stuff floating around. not a lot, but some. For example, the vanilla bean chunks are visible. I think there are also little bits of bark in there. Even after the bits have settled, the beverage is still kinda cloudy. Nothing big enough to get stuck in your teeth, though. This hasn't distracted from the enjoyment of the beverage at all, except visually.

- I used the nitrogen/CO2 mix. I think the tap-a-draft is good enough for carbonating beer, but not soda. Typically, beer is carbonated to 5 to 10 *mumble*s, whereas soda is carbonated to upwards of 30 *mumble*s or more. Every batch I've done in the tap-a-draft, no matter how many CO2 cartridges I use, comes out feeling more like 5 or 10 than 30. So, it's hard to tell how the N2O made any difference at all. I will say that what little head there is sticks around longer, like a nitrogenated Guinness. So maybe it did make a difference.

- The flavor is MUCH stronger than batch 1. This is in part because of using twice as much flavoring stuff, and also I think because I used only 2 cups of sugar. It's not as sweet (this is very noticable) and I think that makes the other flavors stand out more. I think I prefer it a little sweeter than this batch, so I'll probably stick with 2.5 or 3 cups of sugar in the future.

At first, with the chunks and the stranger looking head, I worried that some bug got in the tap-a-draft and contaminated it. But, after drinking a whole glass, I'm convinced that this did not happen. The tastes are exactly what I would expect, given the above analysis.

I'll be taking some bottles to our birthing class on Monday. Conveniently, we're signed up to bring drinks. :) (Don't worry, we'll also be bringing "normal" drinks. :)

Next up: Honey. We went to Farmer's Market tonight and picked up a couple pints of organic orange blossom honey, one of which is ear marked for the next batch. I think I'll either do 2c honey, 1c brown sugar, or 3c honey. The rest will probably be the same as this batch; that was a good mix. Although, a bit more annis; I can't really taste it at all. And, I'll strain it before carbonating. :)

Todo: suggested using wintergreen. Add that to the list of things to try. :)

About November 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Mark's Blog in November 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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