Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Brew day (sort of): Swearengen's Old Tyme Root Beer

So it's been a while since I made root beer, but now that my brand new kegerator's just about up and running (look for a blog post on the topic soon) I want to have some sort of pop on tap. Unlike many homebrewers I like my root beer on the sweet side (I've had some craft root beers that were downright medicinal and I'm definitely not going for that), and I'm not about to boil my own roots and herbs (at least not yet). As such, my recipe for Swearengen's Old Tyme Root Beer is pretty simple on the whole. I use Gnome root beer extract and just mess with the types of sugars I use. For this batch I went with the following to make 2.5 gallons:

0.75 c maple syrup (10% of sugar bill)
1.25 c dark brown sugar (25%)
3.25 c cane sugar (65%)
4 T. Gnome root beer extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

I heated everything together in 4 pts. of water, yielding 6 pts. of syrup. I then dumped that in a carboy and topped it off with 14 more pts. of water to get me to 2.5 gallons.

A few thoughts on this one... First, I may have gone a hair too sweet on this one. I'm thinking of maybe cutting the overall sugar content by 15-20% next time and seeing how it goes. Another thing is I'm curious to try side-by-side root beers with and without the maple syrup. I absolutely love all things maple, but that much maple syrup runs close to $5 in my neck of the woods, so you're talking a price difference of $10 for a full keg, which is hardly insubstantial. Finally, I'm thinking I might double the vanilla next time. I'm somewhat hesitant to implement all these changes at once (which is why I'm only doing 2.5-gallon batches at this point) so I'll have to think about what I want to do next.

One final note... I sort of did a half-assed job of carbonating this one. I carbed at 25 psi, but not for very long so it's a little on the flat side. Nonetheless, I'm thinking 25 psi is a good target pressure. I just happened to stop by an A&W over the weekend and the guy there told me they force carb at 42 psi. I'm thinking they must put it under that much pressure for a short period of time because that just seems WAY too high based on my experience. Anyway, if you're craving a good root beer float and you're in Chicago, drop me a line. Cheers!

P.S. The one other soft drink I would love to have on tap is a clone of Barq's Red Cream Soda. My initial thought is to simply make cream soda (also available from Gnome) and just add grenadine, but if anybody has some insight please share!


Blogger Ted Danyluk said...

Aren't sodas fantastic, and super easy to make? I loved my first root beers, so rich and creamy. My red birch beer however, is too sweet, and I found out I don't care much for the flavor.

One mistake I made is to put an IPA into the keg that had the root beer. The keg was cleaned very well, but the lid seal and pop-its were saturated in sarsaparilla scent, that it actually came though in a super high hopped IPA. The beer was bearable, but towards the end I couldn't stand that scent and flavor coming through. Now I've designated these parts (hoses too) and one keg to sodas.

I've found that force carbonating sodas requires higher pressure. I have Gnome's red birch beer that never really carbonated even with 40+ lbs for several days. It is pretty darn sweet, so I'm gonna get around to thinning it down and resuming some carbonation.

I assume that the more viscous the liquid is, the more difficult it is to force carbonate.

8:33 PM, November 06, 2008  

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