Root beer

From Academic Kids

Root beer is a beverage made from a combination of vanilla, cherry tree bark, licorice root, sarsaparilla root, sassafras root bark, nutmeg, anise, and molasses among other things. Each root beer has a unique recipe. Root beer constitutes about 3% of the American soft drink market. Many local brands of root beer exist and home-made root beer is made from concentrate or (rarely) from roots.

Contents

Ingredients

Other ingredients may include allspice, birch bark, coriander, juniper, ginger, wintergreen, hops, burdock root, dandelion root, spikenard, pipsissewa, guaiacum, spicewood, yellow dock, honey, clover, cinnamon, prickly ash bark, yucca, quillaja, and dog grass.

Due to the wide variety of ingredients possible the flavour of root beer is widely variable between brands. This is especially true of local brands.

Traditional use

Root beer was a traditional beverage and herbal medicine. The beverage was often alcoholic, usually around 2%. As a medicine it was used for cough and mouth sores. Commercially prepared root beer was developed by Charles Elmer Hires on May 16, 1866. He presented root tea powder at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial exhibition. In 1893 he began selling bottled carbonated root beer.

Home-made root beer is made using flavouring (either a concentrate, or actual roots and spices) to which is added sugar, water, and yeast. It is allowed to ferment under pressure to retain the carbonation and limit the alcohol produced by the yeast to low levels.

Sassafras controversy

The FDA banned sassafras root in the U.S. in 1960 as it contains safrole, a potential carcinogen. The young shoots, bark and leaves do not contain this toxin, so commercial extracts are often made from these. Also artificial flavouring agents have been developed which are used in some commercial root beers. Other varieties use sassafras root extract from which the safrole has been removed. The sassafras tree grows wild in the most of the Eastern United States and a person could go and harvest the wild plants; however, removing safrole from sassafras root extract and verifying that it is safe is a task which is beyond the ability and equipment of most homebrewers.

Root beer as a flavour

Root beer is also used as a flavouring for candy, cough drops, popcorn, root beer floats, cakes, and breads. An example of this are root beer Sanded Candy Drops made by Pennsylvania Dutch Candies.

Commercial brands

Root beer brands include:

See also

External links

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