The root in root beer is from the sassafrass plant. Although sassafrass was classified as a carcinogen in 1960, a method was created to remove the dangerous part of the sassafrass (its oils) and use the rest of it for flavoring.
Root beer flavoring can be made from either the root of the sassafras tree or from the sarsaparilla vine. The extract from the comes from brewing the root, which is then mixed with water, sugar, and yeast to create the soda. The carbonation develops when the mixture is stored in a well-sealed container, because the yeast will create carbon dioxide. Fun fact: besides the alcoholic beverage, beer can also mean a “non-alcoholic beverage flavored by root extracts”. Hence the name root beer!
The flavoring in root beer comes from the sassafras tree or sarsaparilla.
There are also a lot of other ingredients that compliment the sassafras root that give root beer its unique flavor. Vanilla, nutmeg, molasses, cherry bark, and licorice have all been used in root beer. Sarsaparilla is now more commonly used than sassafras.
If you peel back the bark on a sprig from a yellow birch tree and chew on it, it tastes like root beer!
See the link below for how to identify yellow birch trees
Here’s a great list of ingredients, courtesy of Ted’s Homebrew Journal:
Blackstrap Root BeerBrewed 6/3/083 gallons
3.0 cup Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar3.5 cup Organic Turbinado & Brown Sugar1.0 cup Organic Blackstrap Molassas5.0 Tbs Malto Dextrin
1.0 Cinnamon Stick.25 oz Licorice Root.25 tsp Grains of Paradise (crushed)
3 oz Root Beer Extract
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