Well, Root Beer take 1 was a failure. I started the ginger bug when it was still pretty cold out. It took three tries and nothing would grow. Most of our food here is irradiated, so it may be that I was doomed to failure as far as getting the ginger bug itself to grow. I did get something to grow eventually, but I suspect it was yeast from the air rather than anything on the ginger itself. I got that going, it was bubbly and looked and smelled great, then I brewed up the root beer, let it cool, and added the ginger bug. I did not add it to a large mouth container, but instead was attempting to brew directly in the 2 liter bottle I was using, that may have been another problem. I started shaking the mixture so it would get more air, but it never fizzed up, eventually it just turned to vinegar and I had to throw it out. The root beer itself, before I tried to ferment it, tasted great, but without fizz, there is no way my 3 year old is going to drink it, plus we'd miss out on all the great beneficial bacteria.
Something else interesting to note...
All the recipes I can find use ginger bug to start the root beer, but I doubt that early settlers here had access to ginger root. I let some dried chopped up licorice root set in some water overnight, and it took to bubbling right away, much easier than the ginger, it also took no sugar to get the process started. I tasted some of the water and it tasted great--not off like it was spoiling, just fizzy. I'm willing to bet that the original starter for root beer was simply one of the roots they were using at the time (recipes are extremely varied, and would have been different depending on what was available). I hear burdock also makes a good starter. This leaves me to wondering though...did they ever just throw all the roots and berries together and just let it sit, then strain off and drink? The resulting brew would not be as strong, but I believe it could be done.
Just some root beer for thought. Write a comment and let me know if you've experimented with any of this. I'd love to compare notes.