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The I have come up with the definitive recipe for sarsaparilla-flavored root beer, but one with some alcohol aboard.  I shall call it SassGorilla.  Because you shouldn’t.

To an empty sterile half-liter glass growler, add:

  • One cup table sugar [technically, at least 65 grams sucrose, (4 tablespoons plus one teaspoon) as table sugar]; or glucose as in proportion.
  • 100 grams lactose, to prevent from being too dry. (nonfermentable.)
  • ¼ tsp. Red Star Cuveé champagne yeast.
  • 1 tbsp root beer extract.
  • 1 tbsp maltodextrin.
  • 1 tsp ground sarsaparilla. (will float.)

Then: add about a liter of spring water (plastic-bottled) and swirl.  Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract or a bean, and swirl.  Top off within 1½” or so of bottle rim, with spring or distilled water.

Cap with pressure trap bubbler OR PRESSURE-RELIEVING DEVICE.  Do not cap without a CO2 exhaust, or the growler will detonate.

Leave it out at room temperature (65°F or 20-25°C) for about twelve hours.  That’s to let the yeast get started.

Place in Eislagerhaus (your garage if it’s 50°F or 10°C) until it stops bubbling.  May not work during summer.  Don’t freeze.

Leave there for a couple of weeks, until the little bubbles disappear from the pressure trap bubbler.

You now have fairly flat but high-test SassGorilla.  Pour over cheesecloth (unless you like to crunch sarsaparilla roots.)

If you have screwed the top on instead of using a bubble, bad brewmeister!  Call the bomb squad.

The SassGorilla may make it to 30 or more proof – that’s about 15% v/v EtOH or 75 mL neat ethanol in ½ L.  That’s 59 g. EtOH, or 1.28 moles of EtOH.  To produce one mole of ethanol from sugar, it’s two molecules per glucose, or four moles from sucrose.  One needs 320 mmol. of sucrose, or 109,821 mg. (109.8 grams) or 69 cc (mL) of sucrose.  That’s only four tablespoons or so, as one tablespoon is about 14 cc; 4 tablespoons plus one teaspoon is 64 cc.

The canonical Fankhauser individual recipe calls for one cup of sucrose, which is about four times this amount.  It can run to exhaustion with one cup; I recommend this approach.

Now, you have flat high-test SassGorilla.  You may decant for a second fermentation in an idiot-resistant bottle (e.g. the little plastic soda bottles) and stop when they get about the right hardness, or flash-carbonate it; or pour over cheesecloth onto ice and drink.

You may pop it in the freezer, as high-test SassGorilla should not freeze through and burst the growler.  Should.  Never tried it.  Don’t blame me if Maw gets mad.