Birch Beer, for those not in the know, is not actually an alcoholic beverage, but a carbonated one, similar in some respects to Root Beer. It’s also one of the most delicious things you will ever put in a cup. Seriously.
Birch Beer has a long history, being made in colonial times in the early Pennsylvania Dutch settlements in Eastern and South Central Pennsylvania. It’s still most commonly available in the Northeastern United States and parts of Canada–much like the Deitsch people themselves! Since it’s most commonly made from an oil distilled from birch bark, it’s also got ties to several Goddesses venerated in Urglaawe, especially Berchta. With all the cultural ties, it’s a good non-alcoholic beverage to put in your stein during rituals, and makes a nice offering too.
The taste of Birch Beer is somewhat like that of Root Beer. To my palate, it has less cloying sweetness and much more robust and complex flavor. The flavor itself is hard to describe. I’ve heard words used like “earthy” and “minty”, and I suppose those will do, although you shouldn’t get the impression that it’s like eating a mint; the mint flavor is very subtle.
Birch Beer is one of my favorite drinks despite my only having had it a very few times. However, since I live in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and not Eastern or South Central, it’s a lot harder to come by in my neck of the woods.
Prior to my recent move in November (from the “big city” an hour away back to my original hometown), I wasn’t able to locate any Birch Beer for sale at all. Since the move, I’ve found it in two places: one of the big grocery chains and in the gift shop of a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
The grocery store wanted a price that amounted to paying several dollars for a single-serve bottle, with the birch beer being sold in packs of four. The gift shop was even worse. When I went back to the grocery store to get some, every single case had been taken…except for a case from which someone had stolen a single bottle, so only three were left in it!
The more affordable “Pennsylvania Dutch” brand of Birch Beer has been nowhere to be found. Friends who live several hours north of me have been able to locate it in their stores, but the gas would end up making the Birch Beer cost even more.
I haven’t given up on finding a reliable store to get Birch Beer from! I want some so badly, I may end up paying the highway robbery prices the grocery chain wants for their fancy glass-bottled version. Until then, the Saga of the Birch Beer continues!