One thing I enjoy about bouncing around the country is discovering regional treats that I’d otherwise never get to try. Take, for example, this glorious beverage Norteasterners call “birch beer.” True to its name, this fizzy little beverage is made from birch bark extracts, and is often described as being similar to root beer, although I find it to have more of a cream soda-y taste. So according to my “very reliable sources,” birch beer can come in all kinds of colors, from brown to red to clear, and it’s actually birch oil (distilled sap) that gives the drink its distinct flavor. Since it’s indigenous to the Northeast and Newfoundland, it’s no wonder I’d never heard of it on the West Coast.
What I’d like to know is where one can find an alcoholic birch beer–that’s when birch tree sap is fermented rather than distilled into oil. But even more than that, I’d love to know what would possess a someone to look at a pretty nondescript birch tree and say “Hey, I wonder if I can make a drink out of that?” Ya gotta wonder about people sometimes.