Birch Beer is a non-alcoholic, carbonated beverage made from birch bark and birch sap.
It’s brewed, like (real) root beer is, and has a head on it when poured, so some think it’s just a type of root beer, but in fact both are a type of “small beer.”
Birch Beer brands that are still being made are usually made from oil distilled from the sap. One brand, Boylan’s, has been made since 1891 in New York State. Its ingredients are birch oil, carbonated water, cane sugar, caramel colour, citric acid, sodium benzoate and yucca extract.
Birch Beer has a brown colour, and a wintergreen taste from the birch. Many don’t like it because of the wintergreen taste, which reminds them of candy or chewing gums. It also has a vanilla flavour.
The Sweet Birch tree (Betula lenta) can also be tapped to make syrup, like sugar maple trees. Its sap flows a month after maple sap does. See Birch Syrup.
Birch Beer was originally made at home by Americans, commercial brands began in the late 1800s.
Pioneers boiled 4 parts birch sap to 1 part honey for 10 minutes. They then poured this over chopped birch twigs, let cool, then strained, added yeast and a piece of toasted rye bread, let ferment for about a week covered. The mixture was then bottled and capped. It was stored for three months before drinking.
Stronger versions could also be made.