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Road Trip Blog (for live reporting from the road).
Trip departure was June 4, 2007.
Return to Eugene was October 20, 2007.
Total Length of Trip was: 139 days (4 months + 19 days).

Brewpub Root Beer Production & Recipe

I did the research and wrote this article on Root Beer History when I was Brewmaster at Steelhead and Bulldog Breweries:

http://www.bulldogrootbeer.com/RBhistory.htm

Here is the basic root beer recipe. You can certainly expand it, but it's simple and it worked for me. This is enough root beer to sell on draft in your own brewpub/restaurant. It is not enough to distribute, and when you distribute it is difficult to get the kegs back on time to make more. A good rule of thumb is, "Once a rootbeer keg, always a root beer keg." Since you don't want your beer kegs turning into root beer kegs, it's not always a good idea to distribute! The real profit margin is in your pub anyway.

Set-up:

1. Create a space in your walk-in cooler where 3 half-barrels of root beer can sit on a permanent basis, carbonating.

2. Set aside 4 bung-sided half-barrel kegs. (We use old Hoff-Stevens kegs that have been converted to Sankey valves.) They will be dedicated to root beer production only. Write "RB" or ROOT BEER on the kegs with permanent marker or an enamel paint marker.

3. Build or have your C02 supplier build a set of three ganged regulators (0-60 psi).

4. Make sure your ganged regulator supplier builds in a Thomas or one-way valve, and a shut off toggle on the exit of each of those 3 ganged regulators.

5. Take 3 micromatic tap heads, and pull out the beer line-out one-way valve (it usually has a ball in it). Replace the gas line-in head with a clean penny, rubber beer nut washer, and rubber beer nut.

6. Attach the 3 modified tap heads via gas line (3/8-inch hose works) to the 3 ganged regulators. I put another ball valve (on/off toggle) next to the tap head so the server who is swapping kegs can kill the gas flow easily.

7. You are now set up to carbonate three kegs of root beer at once. (This is probably not where you serve the root beer from.)

Recipe:

1. Clean and sanitize a bung-sided half-barrel keg.

2. Measure 15 pounds of cane sugar into a clean and dry bucket.

3. Measure 100 to 140 milliliters (mls) of root beer extract (or some combination of root beer, birch beer, sarsaparilla, etc.) in a graduated cylindar.

4. Measure 1 to 2 capfuls (about a teaspoon) of foaming agent.

5. Get a dry funnel, and place it into the bung-hole of your clean and sanitized keg.

6. Pour your sugar into the keg.

7. Pour your extract, but NOT your foaming agent, into the keg.

8. Top the keg most of the way up with hot water. If your tap water is good-tasting, you can use that. Otherwise you can use filtered hot water from the brewery's hot liquor back.

9. Stop filling when there is a small amount of head space in the keg.

10. Pour in your foaming agent.

11. Bung up your keg. Write the date on the bung.

12. Roll your keg to the walk-in cooler to mix up the contents. Stand it up with the valve on top. Turn on the gas (30 PSI) and attach the modified micromatic tap head. Depending on how much head space there was in the keg, the root beer will carbonate in about 2-5 days.

13. Repeat until all three kegs are in place.

Serving:

1. Root beer cannot run through the same trunk line as beer. Root beer is obnoxious and will bleed through the lines and taint the flavor of the beers in the trunk line. Root beer flavor will taint everything it touches. Therefore, once a beerline is a root beer line, it stays that way until you replace the line. We served the root beer keg on the back bar. That way it had it's own line that didn't touch any other lines.

2. Once the root beer keg on the back bar blows: Server unhooks the old keg and rolls it back to the brewery. The keg is placed where the brewer will see it so that he/she will be sure to clean the keg and make a new batch right away so no time is lost in the carbonating part of the process. This is especially important in summer when you will go through more root beer, and nobody likes flat root beer.

3. Server then unhooks the fresh carbonating root beer keg closest to the door. The carbonating root beer kegs are dated on the bung, and they are rotated. The brewer will slide the remaining root beer kegs toward the door, and will put the just-made keg farthest from the door. If the carbonating kegs are properly rotated, then you shouldn't have a flat root beer problem.

4. Server rolls or hand-trucks the fresh root beer keg out to the back bar, taps it, and is ready to serve.

Trouble-shooting:

1. If the root beer is carbonated fine, but the flavor is funny: figure out if you need more or less sugar, and/or if you need more or less extract. If you used 140 ml, your root beer will be VERY SPICY and the children may not like it. Figure out the best proportions for your brewpub. Also, make sure the hot water you use tastes good. If you're not sure, pour a cup of hot water that you'll use, let it cool, then taste it. If it tastes metallic or any other bad flavor, that flavor will be in your root beer.

2. Not enough foam: Use more foaming agent just before bunging the keg. Make sure the brewer/soda maker didn't forget to put it in!

3. Flat root beer: Check the date on the bung. Were the carbonating root beer kegs rotated properly? Was the root beer allowed to carbonate with 30 PSI the whole time? Or was a toggle turned to off? If it was on, was the root beer allowed to rest for 5 days? Or how long? If you only have time for 2 days, then you will have to increase the head space in the keg prior to bunging. You will have to play with your head space vs. time for carbonating ratio until your kegs are properly carbonated. If you have 1 gallon of head space and your keg was carbonating for 5 days and you are certain that 30 PSI of top-pressure was flowing the whole time, then you keg will absolutely be carbonated. If it is flat under those circumstances, then you should call your CO2 supplier, and ask them to come over and look over the set-up with you.

Enjoy!


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