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How is root beer made?

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Quick Answer

Root beer is a beverage made from artificially-flavored sassafras, sweetener and carbonated water. Historically, root beer was made with yeast, and was brewed in a fashion similar to alcoholic beer or tea. However, modern production of root beer involves preparation techniques similar to those of other carbonated soft drinks.

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Natural sassafras root was used to make root beer until 1960, when safrole, which gives the root its flavor, was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration due to being a possible carcinogen. While there is no standard root beer recipe, in addition to sassafras, the drink typically contains other flavorings, such as vanilla, licorice root, nutmeg, acacia and cinnamon. Yucca is sometimes added as a foaming agent to add froth to root beer.

The term "beer" is commonly considered to be an alcoholic beverage made from fermented cereal grains. However, the term also refers to beverages with no alcohol content that contain root extracts as the primary flavor. Most root beer brands do not contain caffeine.

Root beer is predominantly produced in North America, although South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand produce a beverage similar to the typical North American root beer soda. Root beer was commissioned by Samuel Adams during the 1700s as a beverage with a low alcohol content that could be consumed by children and adults at family gatherings.

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