So, Fassbrause? Apple Beer? What's this a Mormon is talking about making? Has he gone nuts? If you mean nuts as in excited, then yes! You see, in the Tech Industry, drinking and social interaction with drinking is almost mandatory, and almost definitely expected. Case in point, at my current position, our company has a HomeBrew social, where employees bring in their home brewed ales and beers. As a non-drinker, it's tough to participate in an activity that is geared directly to alcohol. Fortunately, based on my experience living in Germany and my family's prior discovery of Apple Beer (there was a Fish and Chips shop in South Salt Lake that carried it), I know of the alternative.
Fassbrause, literally translated as "keg soda" is a soft drink that was originally brewed in Germany in the 19th Century, and eventually made it's way in the 1960's to Utah where it was released as Apple Beer. It was originally developed by a brewer that wanted to have a drink for his kids that wasn't alcoholic, but still had the nutrition of malt. By mixing together apple juice with malt extract and "herbs" he came up with Fassbrause.
It was waning in popularity in the West for years, though still had a market in East Germany until recently when people started looking for a non-alcoholic alternative to beer and wine at social events. It's now growing in popularity, particularly around Berlin and Dresden in multiple flavors, and Apple Beer is enjoying a resurgence in the US and the Caribbean. Now, you can't seem to find Fassbrause imported to the US through any online retailer (if anyone knows of one, please let me know!), so my tastebuds are geared to the American version.
But what is the recipe? You would think it would be easy to find for such an old drink, right? Well, every site, every request, every link I could find in English always listed "herbs" as just that: herbs. What were the mysterious herbs, and why didn't anyone seem to think it was important to reverse engineer? You would think, in the growing Maker culture we currently enjoy, with all the home brewers out there, someone would have thought to reverse engineer this delightfully refreshing drink (that is low in calories too, I might add!). But nothing... at least until I found this wiki article in German which outlines the original recipe including water, malt extract, and a concentrate of apples and licorice.
Finally! Ingredients! But in what concentration? That I had to work out myself. I purchased a pound of Amber malt extract ($5.95, normally $7.95) and one stick of brewers licorice ($1.99) from Home Brew Mart in Linda Vista. The malt extract was on sale, so I also picked up some real Indian sarsaparilla (2 oz., $2.99) for a future project ^_^. Then I picked up some frozen apple concentrate and got to work.
Malt extract is the powdered (or thick liquid) result of malted grain, usually barley. Powdered is really easy to measure and use, though a lot of purist brewers prefer to use the liquid form. Malt is considered a nutritional bonus, and is added to malted milk drinks like Carnation Instant Breakfast, Nestle Quick, or Ovaltine. It gives the drink body and mouth feel, creates the "head", and gives it a slightly malty smell to it.
Brewer's licorice is a concentrated stick of licorice, much like a licorice stick, but the sweetness is naturally extracted from the licorice root. It is used as a flavor and sweetener agent in the drink, as it contains the compound glycyrrhizin which is 30-50 times sweeter than sugar. Modern licorice candy uses anise seed, a botanical relative of licorice, which has the same basic flavor but doesn't contain the sweetener or the same medicinal effect.
Keep in mind that licorice root is a medicinal product, and in sufficient quantities will raise blood pressure. I started with a very small portion of licorice in order to avoid any blood pressure issues. Sarsaparilla in it's various forms (Indian, wild, or greenbrier) is said to have a slight licorice flavor without the blood pressure issue, which is why I picked some up (that, and to make real sarsaparilla!).
If you wish to carbonate using yeast, you would follow the same methods as brewing any beer. The natural sugar in the apples makes for easy brewing, and you would probably add more licorice for sweetness after the brew has completed. This method does create alcohol, though in very small quantities (if you wanted a stronger beer, you could add more sugar and/or add hops). It's the same process that was used to brew what was once called "small beer", or low-alcohol beer before hops made it possible to brew a stronger beer. I chose to carbonate the water first using the Sodastream product, but you could use Club Soda or dry ice as well.
- 1 can frozen apple juice concentrate
- 1 tablespoon malt extract
- 1 pinch brewer's licorice (potent stuff!)
Boil the frozen concentrate on medium heat, and whisk in the malt extract and licorice. Reduce by 1/4 until a nice syrup is made. Let cool, then mix with carbonated water (club soda, Sodastream) or add to 3 quarts water and carbonate with dry ice.
My first batch I added a little less licorice and two tablespoons of malt extract. It tasted just about right while boiling, but had too much malt smell and body to my liking. Adding more licorice made the licorice flavor more pronounced, and adding less malt extract made for a great body flavor. The mix would make about 3 quarts of Fassbrause with a strong apple flavor (thanks to the natural sugars and licorice). It's very refreshing, not too sweet (particularly with fresh apples), and is only 24 calories per pint (that's 12 calories per 8 ounce glass).
So I've managed to crack it! The next step is to submit my Fassbrause to the next Homebrew event in August, and see how it goes over.