Sunday, March 29, 2015

#29, Root Beer Memories

Have you ever drank homemade root beer?  Occasionally we would go to town and stop at the drive-inn and have a frosty mug of root beer or a root beer float.  I remember how creamy and smooth it was.  The ice cream, thick bubbles and laughter.  Eating my drink with a spoon.  Then finishing it up with the straw.  Root beer floats were awesome.  A very special treat.

We lived in the country when I was very little.  Mom and I would take daily walks along the paved road in front of our house.  We would pick up pop or beer bottles that had been tossed from passing cars.  If you turned them in at the store beer bottles were worth a penny and pop bottles were worth 2 cents. Later the pop bottles jumped to a nickel. These were put into the shed until there were enough to turn in.  That was our fair money.  Money to spend on rides and treats.

Usually once a year mom would make homemade root beer.  I remember her going to the store and getting a box of root beer extract.  We would sit at the table and she would carefully open the box.  Remove the folded recipe and instructions.  Opening the paper, she would read it over.  Then carefully lay out all her needed ingredients. There was a box of boughten bottle caps.  I would get the bottle capper stored in the back of the cupboard.   She would take some of the pop bottles, wash them real good and then put them in boiling water to sterilize them.

I can still see the big pot on the stove.   Bottles rolling, bubbles gurgling and steam hovering over the pot.  Then she would take the bottles out one by one.  Line them up  on the towels laying on the counter.  In another pot was the simmering syrup: extract, sugar, water, and yeast.  The brew even now I can see cooling just a bit.

The sterilized funnel went into the neck of each bottle.  Then she would ladle out the brew.   I watched as the dark liquid raced into the bottle crashing against itself as the line of dark brew raised to the top.  It was my job to notice when it was at the correct place on the neck.  Too much and it would pop early.  Too little and there would be no fizz.

Then it was my job to take one of the bottle caps and put it on the bottle.  Mom would set the bottle on the capper machine.  She would pull the handle down and it would crimp the cap.  After the bottles had been capped they would go in the wooden pop bottle crate.  From there they were moved to a dark closet.  I remember being told not to open the closet door because they needed the darkness to become root beer. She would also put a newspaper and towel on top of the bottles and under the crate.

As a small child I thought those bottles had to stay in there for months.  As I look online at old recipes it was actually probably only a week.

Occasionally you would hear a loud pop come from the closet.  That was a bottle that had not sealed properly and had exploded.  I'm guessing that was why the towel and newspapers were assembled.

I still feel the anticipation of finally being allowed to open the closet door and examine the remaining bottles.  The dark liquid beckoned.  I can still see that small person carrying a bottle to the fridge.  Until there were about six chilling.  Knowing that later mom would pop the caps and we would have the ultimate treat - cold root beer or maybe a homemade root beer float.


  1. What a wonderful memory. I hadn't even thought about making root beer at home. As a child, we did occasionally go to a local drive-in for a root beer float. What a wonderful treat.

  2. Thanks for this memory. I have similar memories of making root beer but I'm the mom. I think it's time for another batch!

  3. I never had home made root beer, but I did have my share of root beer floats. Nothing like them. Thanks for the memory.

  4. Oh yes, there is nothing quite like that first taste.

  5. We never had this pleasure of making our own, but certainly I remember going to the root beer stand for floats. Love all the parts you shared with us, Ruth, special memories from a small child! Love this: "As a small child I thought those bottles had to stay in there for months. As I look online at old recipes it was actually probably only a week." To young children, it's so hard to grasp time!

  6. What great descriptions! I love imagining the bottle capper. My husband brews beer and has made root beer too, on occasion. So delicious a root beer float with homemade root beer-- you bring the fizz and crunchy nice cream right back.

  7. It would be fun to hear different root beer memories.

  8. Our family never made root beer, but some friends did. Same warning to keep them in the dark closet, and same popping of bottle caps when they weren't sealed well.
    I especially loved root beer barrel candies and root beer Popsicles!


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