Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Garbage Can Root Beer!

It's a long standing tradition in my extended family to make homemade root beer... in a garbage can... for our reunions. It's quite the fun project and always so yummy too! So whenever I get the opportunity to make it for some other event, I jump at the chance!

I had just such a chance this past weekend at a church picnic party and thought I'd document the fun so you too can make garbage can root beer some day!

First of all, I always forget the amounts of stuff, and I'm not totally sure that the recipe on the back of the root beer extract is what we've always done, but I found this ingredient list at All Recipes, which is what I ended up using. If you don't want to make a HUGE batch of this stuff and just want a "normal" bit, then make it in a 5 gallon jug instead of a garbage can!

Here's a list of the both ways:

For a Five Gallon Jug

6 cups of sugar
3 1/3 gallons cold water
1 2-oz bottle of root beer extract
4 lbs dry ice

For a 20 Gallon Garbage Can
(times the above by FIVE!)

30 cups of sugar (15 lbs of sugar!)
16 2/3 gallons of cold water (give or take a bit!)
5 2-oz bottles of root beer extract
20 lbs of dry ice

So here's what you do.

First, buy a new plastic 20 gallon garbage can! And if you plan to make this often, you of course keep it handy and store it garbage free.

Fill the can up with water about half way and then add the sugar and extract. Stir with some sort of long implement (we tried using a hot dog roasting stick this last time, but I wouldn't recommend stirring with a fork. Doesn't work too well!)

Or, if you aren't bugged by it, stick your arm in and stir the sugar so it doesn't settle too much at the bottom!

Fill the can with the rest of the water, which you'll want not all the way to the top, thus, about 17 gallons as listed above.

Then, the fun part! Carefully and safely drop in the dry ice. Let it bubble and fizz for about an hour. It's during this step that I hope the sugar truly gets stirred up, because it's pretty impossible otherwise! (Be sure to not put the lid on, that would be explosive!)

After an hour, taste it to test the fizz level. If it passes, you are done! If not, let it percolate a bit more. To serve it, we transfer the root beer with a gallon pitcher to the 5 gallon cooler, so people can easily fill their glasses.

And then, bottoms up!

This amount served well over 100 very thirsty people the other night, and we had a good couple of gallons left over.

Seriously, this is one of the best summer treats ever!

Oh, and if you are at a big gathering, I would keep your eye on on the can during the actual picnic, or at least put a note on it declaring it NOT garbage, or you just might end up with a picnic plate thrown right in!

Also, if you happen to have some vanilla ice cream handy, well, you know what that means! Floats!


  1. Homemade root beer is the best! IBC is good too though. Can you make Apple Beer in a garbage can?

    1. Kami: This stuff sort of tastes like IBC...ish. I don't know about apple beer. Does it have a concentrate flavor? If so, then, yep!

  2. I had no idea how to do this! Wow, this sounds like such fun!

  3. I've seen a lot of recipes for making homemade sodas, but I've never seen it carbonated with dry ice. Love this and what a fun thing to do for a big, family gathering.

    1. Janel: Dry ice is the best for this sort of thing! Fast and easy!

  4. Wow, I had no idea you could do this. I'm going to try this next time I go to a big gathering !

  5. I am totally going to try this one of these days!! It looks so yummy (even if it comes in a trash can)!!! :)

  6. That looks like fun. My parents used to make root beer once a year, but they made smaller batches and bottled it. I was too young to remember, but I've often heard the story how one year things went wrong and root beer exploded out of the bottle all over the kitchen!

  7. I'm beginning to think that root beer flavoring is a Utah thing! My cousin swears by homemade root beer ice cream but I have searched all over for flavoring and can't find it.

    What a fun family activity!! I can see the boys in our family getting quite into this.

  8. This is intense! Lots of people will enjoy this if Im making this in one of our gatherings! haha!


  9. Where do you get your large quantity of dry ice for a good price? I'm trying to make it for a science project for Cub Scout Day camp for 500 boys.

    1. Megan: I just buy it at the local grocery store... Maceys or Harmons. I can't remember the price, but it's doable. 500 boys! Wow, that's going to be A LOT of root beer! Good luck!



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