Make Beer From Roots
There are two things that could be called "root beer"; one is any ale made from roots, the other is the modern soda pop called root beer which used to be flavored with sassafras root, which is now illegal because it supposedly causes cancer and not, let me make this clear, because sassafras root is difficult to dig up and a limited commodity that can only be supplied naturally, unlike wintergreen, which is what soda pop manufacturers use today that is toxic but it is also cheap, plentiful and can be made synthetically. This page and product, which I choose to call "roots beer" to distinguish it from a soda pop,  is about  the alcoholic ale or beer that is made from roots, although, truth to tell, there is not a lot of difference between roots beer and root beer. They are both fermented beverages. One is just fermented longer and so it has more alcohol than the other. The other product, a more soda-like root beer, can be found here.

Issue: use of sassafras root
There are various products made of sassafras root such as sassafras root bark that can be used (legally) as a substitute for sassafras root, but if you've ever smelled true sassafras root
you will know that there is a wide difference. Some people who own mature female sassafras trees will dig up the sassafras saplings that grow around it to use the roots for flavoring. 

Other Spices
There are many spices that can be used for your roots beer. A combination that will yield a pleasant root-beer-like taste can be ginger, cloves, star anise, licorice stick, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Other spices that have been used are such things as juniper berries, white birch bark, spruce buds, and fennel seed.  Some recipes will give you an exact list and precise amount of each spice, but it may be a long time, not to mention an expensive expedition, before you can gather all the spices named. I suggest you use what you have on hand plus what you can gather or forage in forest or garden plus any spices you buy that you like.

The exact proportions can vary. Try to make a record of what you use so that you can copy it in the future if you like it, but there are so many variables, and tradtitionally the brewer would use what was in season or available locally that there can be no, one, precise recipe for any flavored beer.

Take a handful of the spices you have chosen or gathered. You can grind or chop them up and put in a cotton cheesecloth (muslin) ball and secure it tightly or you can leave the material in larger pieces. The bigger the pieces used for the spices and flavoring, the longer they will need to be kept steeping.

Put the spices in a quart of water in a slow cooker. If you want a dark-colored soda pop, include some pieces of plant or wood charcoal in the bag. Cover the slow cooker and steep on low heat for 1 or 2 days.  When it has steeped, remove the bag or filter out the liquid. Use the spiced water in the recipe that follows follows.

1 quart of spiced water
1 quart of water
3" potato (weigh about 3 1/2 ounces)
3" beet (beetroot)
(weigh about 3 1/2 ounces)
5" carrot (weigh about 3 ounces)
1 cup of sugar syrup (boil 1 3/4 cups of sugar in 7/8 cup of water)
1 cup yeast starter
1 tablespoon of sorghum syrup, barley malt extract or dry malt extract

Peel and grate potato, beet and carrot. Put in a gallon jar or other container suitable for brewing and add 2 1/2 cups of boiling water. Add cup of sugar syrup. If it has cooled down to tepid or lukewarm, add the cup of yeast starter. Cover with an airlock (anything that will keep bugs out but let gas escape). 

When it starts to ferment (froth appears on top), let it ferment for 3-7 days.
(See Adjusting Alcohol to determine how long to ferment it.)

Strain it through cheesecloth (muslin), loosely woven cloth or a fine sieve to remove sediment. You may be able to just let it set and then pour it off the sediment slowly.

Pour into plastic soda pop bottles, adding a teaspoon of sugar syrup per bottle.

Screw cap on tightly.

When bottles are firm and cannot be squeezed, ale is ready to drink. Refrigerate and drink with 3 days.

This bottle is not ready.
This bottle is not yet ready to drink.

I carbonate everything in plastic soda pop bottles. The advantages to this are that plastic doesn't risk accidentally exploding, sending long pieces of sharp, pointy glass into your flesh, and it's easier to check on carbonation by squeezing a plastic bottle. It's okay to brew in glass and then transfer to plastic when bottling. If you want to carbonate in glass fermentation bottles, I suggest putting them in a sturdy wooden box and packing sand around them. 

Can I use other roots?
Sure. You can use dandelion roots, burdock, cattail, chard. Any starchy root, even turnip. You will probably need to add more sugar.
What about sassafras root?

Sassafras root has been used in the past as the main flavoring ingredient of root beer. If you have ever sniffed a sassafras root, you will know why, as it has an exquisite taste and aroma. The US government then outlawed it on the grounds that massive quantities of it caused cancer in rats, and commercial root beer is now flavored with oil of wintergreen, a known toxin that is deadly in high doses. Personally, I prefer sassafras root, which you can't buy but you can pull up saplings under a mature sassafras tree, and you would put into the spice concentrate water, but I cannot recommend it here because it is illegal and would probably violate the terms of service of this website to do so.
Making Beer Into Wine

If you forget your beer after it has fully fermented and gone flat, you can still make it into wine. Add more sugar syrup if it is not sweet enough, replace caps with airlocks in case more fermentation takes place and let it sit for 3 months to a years.  Any real ale can be made into wine. Most wines are made with a sugar ratio of 5 pounds of sugar for every gallon of wine, so the recipe could be adjusted to make a gallon of wine as such: 5 pounds of sugar, 3 potatoes, 3 beet roots, 3 carrots, 1 pint of yeast starter and a gallon of water.

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. 
Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harr Buhner
Truly Cultured Rejuvenating Taste, Health and Community With Naturally Fermented Foods by Nancy Bentley

My e-Books


Site-Related Products Available For Sale Online
Sorghum Syrup
Brewing Yeast
Sassafras Tea Concentrate
Cinnamon Sticks
1 Gallon Glass Jug

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