In my face

Dandelion closeup

One of my recent hobbies has been homebrewing my own sodas.  I’ve long been on a quest to find a truly fiery hot ginger ale and realized that I was going to have to make it myself.  I found David Fankhauser’s recipe and instructions for homemade ginger ale (check out his pages on cheesemaking as well) and have had consistent success following his directions. 

However, a few months ago I got excited by some recipes for root beer that actually use roots, bark, seeds, and fruit instead of a prepared extract.  To my delight, I found that Stephen Cresswell has written a whole book of recipes for all kinds of sodas that are homebrewed from scratch, so I bought it along with a gallon jug, dozen 16 oz bail-top bottles, and some ale yeast.  The first recipe I tried was Licorice Root Beer.  I must not have gotten the yeast properly activated because it never developed carbonation.  To bolster my confidence, I then went back to trusty old ginger ale, but this time used Cresswell’s recipe which involves boiling and straining the ginger.  It was fabulous, especially after a few days chilling in the fridge.

Well, this had me feeling confident again and so I decided to really go all out for my next batch and take on Cresswell’s recipe for Dandelion Champagne.  Dandelions have been blossoming all over during the last two weeks and this last Tuesday I finally found time to go and gather the gallon of blossoms that the recipe calls for.  It ended up taking longer than I had expected and I didn’t have time to brew up the soda right then, so I put my gallon of blossoms in the fridge hoping that would keep them fresh enough.

When I got home later than night I was discouraged to find that the blossoms had wilted and closed up quite a bit, so I was seeing at least as much green as yellow.  Having already invested a couple of hours gathering them I pressed forward with the recipe.  I was concerned that the recipe said nothing about washing the blossoms and I didn’t want to wash away any pollen or other flavorful elements that might add to the soda.  Against my better judgment I left them unwashed.

Fast-forward to Wednesday evening.  My wife and I were sitting in our living room when she announced that she could hear my soda.  Sure enough there was a faint hissing of pressure slowly escaping one of the bottles.  I assumed that I had a faulty seal on my hands, so I found the offending bottle and popped the top.  Froosh!  I was nailed in the face with a geyser of soda propelled by the extreme pressure of the gas that had built up.  I ran the bottle into the kitched as fast as I could while it continued to erupt everywhere.  Although the recipe said to give at least 3 days for the carbonation to build, my batch was already dangerously over-carbonated in less than 24 hours.  I ended up having to take the rest of the bottles into the bathroom where I opened them into the bathtub, each with a similar explosion of golden carbonation.

I’m not sure if it was the unwashed blossoms that contributed extra critters, some extra happy yeast, or what, but that carbonation was out of control.  I’m just glad we heard the one bottle leaking gas when we did or the bottles would likely have begun exploding after a bit longer.  This recipe may be my white whale, but I’m determined to try it again.  Next time I will get help gathering the blossoms, wash them thoroughly, and use them as quickly as possible after harvesting.  I’ll let you know how it goes.