Hard Root Beer Recipe

A traditional twist on the now-familiar soft drink, hard root beer used to be the more-common choice among homebrewers.

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by AdobeStock/Brent Hofacker
3 weeks DURATION
3 gallons SERVINGS


  • 2 pounds light dried malt extract
  • 1 pound sugar
  • 1 pound lactose
  • 1 ounce Cascade hops
  • 1 ounce sassafras root bark (about 6 tablespoons)
  • 0.8 ounce licorice root (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 3 vanilla beans, or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast nutrients, such as Wyeast or White Labs
  • 11-gram sachet of Fermentis US-05 dried ale yeast
  • 7 ounces molasses (for priming bottles)


  • To a 2-gallon or larger pot, add 1 3/4 gallons of water and begin heating slowly. Stir in the malt extract until it dissolves completely. Then, stir in the sugar and lactose until dissolved.
  • Bring the mixture to boil. Add the hops, and boil for 5 minutes. Then, add the sassafras and licorice, and boil 5 more minutes. Add the vanilla and yeast nutrients, and boil 5 more minutes. You should end up with 11/2 gallons of wort (unfermented beer).
  • Cool the wort to approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine it with 1 1/2 gallons of cool water in a sanitized fermentation bucket or a 5-gallon stainless steel pot. Use a sanitized whisk to whip the top of the wort into a froth. Sprinkle the dried yeast on top of the wort. Allow the mixture to ferment at about 68 degrees for 4 to 5 days.
  • Add approximately 4 ounces of water to your molasses to produce an 11-ounce solution. Boil that solution for a couple of seconds to sanitize it, and then cool. Add 2 ounces of the solution to each of your 2-liter bottles, or 3 ounces to every 3-liter bottle. Siphon or funnel the wort into the bottles, leaving 1 to 2 inches of headspace. Seal the bottles.
  • Let the bottles sit at room temperature, or slightly above, for 2 weeks, and then refrigerate them for at least 3 days before sampling.

A traditional twist on the now-familiar soft drink, hard root beer used to be the more-common choice among homebrewers.

This fermented, carbonated root beer has an ABV of 4.8 percent. The easiest way to package this volume of root beer is in three 3-liter plastic bottles and one 2-liter plastic bottle. Unlike with soft root beer, you don’t have to worry about creeping over-carbonation.

Fermentation Time

Fermentation Type: Alcoholic

Primary Fermentation: 4 to 5 days

Secondary Fermentation: 2 weeks and 3 days

Total Time: About 3 weeks

Shelf Life: 1 month

Visit Back to the Roots of Root Beer to learn about the origins of root beer, or make your own soft drink with our Soft Root Beer Soda Recipe.

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