For as long as I can remember, homemade root beer has been a part of our family celebrations. Grandma Marie, our next-door neighbor and paternal Grandmother, had a huge 10-gallon insulated cooler that she hauled to all family reunions (and there seemed to be a dozen of these every summer). No family get-together was complete without it, and in spite of the fact that we could walk four blocks to enjoy a frosty mug of A&W root beer served by freckled high school girls on roller skates at one of the first A&W franchises built in the U.S., Grandma’s back yard brew just tasted better. She even had her own handcrafted stirring stick- a huge flat paddle with an extra long handle reserved exclusively for the task of stirring the dry ice off from the bottom of her root beer cooler.
Old-fashioned homemade root beer is made from four simple ingredients – water, sugar, root beer extract, and dry ice. You’ll love the taste, since it has a kick you won’t get out of a bottled root beer. Plus it’s an event just to watch the concoction brewing as the dry ice dissolves into clouds of aromatic “smoke.”
The recipe is simple, but takes a little bit of planning, since not every corner grocery store sells dry ice. Once you gather the ingredients, though, you’ll be all set to wow the crowd with your homemade brewing skills. It takes about 30-40 minutes for the root beer to carbonate after dry ice is added. CAUTION: Handle dry ice carefully in order to avoid injury, and be sure to leave the lid to your beverage cooler open slightly in order to allow gasses to escape.
- 6 cups granulated sugar
- 3½ gallons cold water
- 6 ounces root beer extract (find this near other extracts in the spice aisle)
- 4 pounds dry ice (available at most grocery stores--you may need to request it at a courtesy counter)
- In a large, 5-gallon insulated cooler, mix water and granulated sugar until sugar is dissolved. Stir in root beer extract. Using gloves, carefully add 4 pounds of dry ice to the mixture. Do NOT touch the dry ice with bare hands. LEAVE LID LOOSE TO ALLOW GASSES TO ESCAPE.
- Stir every few minutes as the dry ice dissolves and carbonates the water. It will take about 30-40 minutes for the carbonation process to be complete.
Don’t forget to add ice cream for your own root beer floats!