Ginger Beer and Root Beer
You can buy the bottles at any respectable homebrewing supplier. Which is also the best place to find things like hops, sarsaparilla, and sassafras root. I like the spring top bottles, but the thing to remember is to always make certain that the rubber seals are new and pliable. We don't want explosions. If you want to invest in a capper and some blanks that will work fine too, as long as you go for thick, brown or green glass to prevent light damage.
Because the carbonation here is achieved by the action of yeast there will be very trace amounts of alcohol. Because the fermentation is stopped quickly the alcohol content will be well below 0.005% which by any definition is a "soft" drink.
These are both tried and true recipes which are fairly easy.
INGREDIENTS FOR GINGER BEER
1 gallon water
10 ounces peeled fresh ginger cut into thin medallions
2 cups sugar (I often use the vanilla sugar I keep in the pantry)
2 lemons, washed well and sliced about 1/4"
1/2 teaspoon fresh brewer's yeast
Put the ginger, the sugar, and the water on a high flame in a stout pot. Bring to a boil and boil, covered, for about an hour. Uncover, and add in the lemons, boil uncovered for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once it is below 85° you can add in the yeast. Allow the yeast to work overnight. I cover during this stage loosely with a cheesecloth. Skim off the yeast scum and strain through a fine mesh screen into the sterilized bottles. Cap tightly and let the bottles sit for at least 12 hours to carbonate further, then refrigerate. Once refrigerated they will keep up to two months. This makes about 12 Grolsch Lager sized bottles.
INGREDIENTS FOR MINSTREL'S BEAUCOUP VOODOO ROOT BEER
2 gallons of water
3 tablespoons ground sarsaparilla
1 tablespoon ground sassafrass root
1 heaping tablespoon hops
1 1/2 cups honey (desert sage is what i prefer for the smokiness)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon wintergreen extract
1/4 teaspoon fresh brewer's yeast
Put the sarsaparilla, sassafrass, hops, and coriander into a slow cook crock pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil on high setting. Reduce to the lower setting and simmer, covered, for 12 hours. You might need to add in some water from time to time to keep all the ingredients wet. This is a great step for overnight.
Next morning turn off the slow cooker so that the ingredients can all cool to room temperature, proof the yeast in 2/3 cup of warm water. Boil the 2 gallons of water in a large non-reactive pot for ten minutes and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain the stuff from the slow cooker through a fine mesh strainer so that the liquid is joined with the 2 gallons of boiled water. Stir in the honey, the wintergreen extract and the yeast slurry and mix well. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minimum of 12 hours. Skim off the yeast scum and strain into the sterilized bottles. Cap tightly and refrigerate. This makes about 24 full sized bottles. They will last up to two months if refrigerated, but as soon as the kids figure out how good it is two months will not be in the cards.
These are great winter projects for kids stuck inside by inclement weather.