Just about everytime an Eat Local Challenge comes up in public conversation, someone mentions upping their percentage of local beer or vodka to meet the challenge guidelines. It's true- we have a decent number of small breweries and even some hard liquor made nearby, I'm told. But I'd be hard pressed to name a single local alcoholic beverage.
The only alcohol in our house is a 2 oz. mini-bottle of tequila I use for making margarita cupcakes and some vanilla extract- neither of which are local. My partner is straight edge, so no alcohol for him. And me- I come from a long line of alcoholics (recovering, thank God) and keep my drinks to about one per year. So I won't be kicking back with a cold local brew anytime soon.
I will, however, be kicking back with a cold Mulberry Root Beer, though!
We started making our own root beer a few years ago. It's not hard to do and the supplies are pretty cheap. Northern Brewing on Grand Ave. has everything you'll need as far as equipment goes and the roots/herbs can be procured at your local co-op. There's a gazillion combinations you can use, but we thought it'd be fun to use up some mulberries in this one.
Mulberry Root Beer
1 quart mulberries, washed (sub any berry)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
1/4 cup date syrup (sub 1/4 cup raisins if you don't have this)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 Tbsp. sarsparilla
1 vanilla bean, scraped and the remaining pod
2 Tbsp. licorice root
2 star anise
1 Tbsp. juniper berries
2 gallons filtered water
1/4 tsp granulated ale yeast or champagne yeast
Stir together all fruits/herbs and 1 gallon of the filtered water in a large stockpot. Bring to a simmer and boil for 30 minutes. Then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Prepare a strainer over another larger pot, carboy, or empty bulk peanut butter bucket. Strain the mulberry-spice liquid, gently pressing the mulberries to get the juice out. Discard strained solids. Add the remaining gallon of water to the jug and stir. Make sure the temperature is lukewarm- no hotter. Then stir the yeast with 1/4 cup of water in a little cup. Add to the jug and stir vigorously. Your brew is now ready to bottle.
It takes some strong bottles to package this up as the carbonation can get pretty fierce. I really recommend only using bail-top bottles designed for this purpose. These should be sterilized with hot water and soap before bottling. We use a spigot rigged up on an old 5 gallon bucket and put a plastic hose over the nozzle that attaches to a bottling wand. But you can get creative about how to get the soda into the bottle- just keep it sterile.
The soda needs to stay in a warmish place (no problem in summer) for a few days. Usually they take about 48 hours for the carbonation to build, but we check after 24 just in case. You might want to open them outside as they can be lots of fun to open- like champagne that's been shaken up.
Once you know they're at the right fizzy consistency, bring them into the basement or a refrigerator to stop the yeast and get those brews ready for drinking!
PS- I can't really guarantee how this brew will taste when finished because it's still sitting on the kitchen floor growing bubbles. But my temperature-test taste was rockin good- kindof like a spiced cherry vanilla soda.