Brew a batch of homemade root beer that's reminiscent of A&W's light, smooth and creamy flavor by using simple ingredients plus a touch of vanilla. You don't need any special equipment -- just a strainer lined with cheesecloth and some swing-top glass bottles or plastic bottles with caps. Sterilize the bottles before you get started to avoid introducing potentially harmful bacteria into the mix. Once your homemade root beer reaches the desired amount of fizz, transfer the bottles to the refrigerator, where you can store your soda for approximately one month.
To make a simple homemade root beer, you only need a handful of ingredients -- sarsaparilla root, sassafras root, sugar, whey or yeast and water. To make your root beer taste more like A&W's, add a little vanilla extract or a vanilla bean to the mix to capture the soft, creamy notes that distinguish A&W from other root beers. In general, for every 2 1/2 quarts of water, use:
- 1/2 cup of dried sarsaparilla root
- 1/4 cup of sassafras root
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar -- granulated or unrefined cane sugar, depending on your preferences.
Fermentation website, Cultures For Health recommends using 3/4-cup whey to make the root beer using lacto-fermentation methods. Food blog Serious Eats has a stronger, spicier recipe that uses 1/8 teaspoon of ale yeast to brew the root beer, along with 1 tablespoon of birch bark, 1 tablespoon of sassafras root and 1 tablespoon sarsaparilla root for each gallon of water used to make the homemade soda.
Whether you choose to use yeast, whey or another type of culture to brew your soda, the first step remains the same: make the root beer syrup. Combine water and sugar with the sassafras, sarsaparilla and a vanilla bean that's been split in half and scraped to release the seeds. Bring the mixture to a boil, let it simmer for approximately 10 minutes, and allow the spices to steep for two hours. Pour the syrup into a strainer that's been lined with cheesecloth and set over a large bowl or pot.
Looking for a faster method? Todd Wilbur provides an A&W-like root beer recipe that only takes 10 minutes to make. To make this fast version, combine 1 1/3 cups sugar for every 1 cup of hot water. Stir the sugar into the water to dissolve it before adding 1 cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon root beer concentrate. Chill the root beer syrup before adding 1/4-cup of the syrup for every 1 cup of cold club soda or seltzer.