What Is Birch Beer, and Can You Make Some at Home?

Do you want to know what birch beer is?

It’s a minty, sweet, herbal, and earthy soft drink. 

Many people compare it to rootbeer, but there is a difference.

Birch beer, as the name implies, is made from birch wood, whereas root beer was first made from sassafras root.

We’ll tell you all about it and its history and even give you a recipe to make it at home.

Let’s get started!

birch beer

Birch Beer In a Nutshell

You can make nonalcoholic birch beer with the same ingredients as the boozy kind.

Just mix birch extract, sweetener, and carbonated water. 

It’s usually straightforward, but you can add brown sugar or coloring to make it brown or red.

Sweet birch trees grow from Canada to northern Alabama and Georgia, giving birch beer its minty scent and flavor. 

Popular regional brands include Boylan’s, Foxon Park, and Pennsylvania Dutch.

These companies have existed since the early 1900s, showing birch beer’s lasting popularity.

Related Reading: What Is A Tallboy Beer – Deep Dive Here.

Birch Beer’s History 

You’ve probably heard of birch beer.

It was first mentioned in the mid-1600s.

American colonists made it at home because they couldn’t afford imported alcohol. 

It was a way to get high without spending too much.

The recipe involved fermenting sap from the birch tree, sugar, and yeast. 

This tree is unique to the northeastern US, from Canada to Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Maine.

Birch beer became popular after Prohibition.

People in the alcohol and beer industry needed to stay afloat while campaigning to end the ban. 

Early birch beer was low-alcohol and made by the English and American colonists.

John Mortimer’s 1707 book The Whole Art of Husbandry noted that poor people usually made it. 

The modern era of soda began as a health trend.

Tonics and tinctures are claimed to treat everything from indigestion to cancer. 

Soda fountains in pharmacies dispensed artificially carbonated drinks sweetened with syrup.

They were said to address exhaustion, high blood pressure, headaches, and upset stomachs. 

But with temperance movements, these drinks couldn’t contain alcohol.

Birch beer and other sweet, herbal beverages were marketed as healthy, wholesome family drinks.

Prohibition caused brewers in Pennsylvania and other northeastern states to make carbonated drinks.

That’s how birch beer ended up in our grocery stores and homes. 

Companies like Kutztown Soda Works, Reading Draft, Boylan, and Appalachian Brewing Company started producing it.

Some popular brands are Foxon Park, Sioux City, Hank’s, Stewart’s, and Avery’s.

Related Reading: Delightful Maple Beers To Enjoy – Learn More Here.

Birch Beer, Root Beer, and Sarsaparilla

Do you know the difference between birch beer, root beer, and sarsaparilla?

It’s easy to get them confused. 

Let’s take a look at each one.

Sarsaparilla is made from the root of the smilax ornata plant.

Craft beer brewers usually brew it in the US. 

You make Root beer from the roots of any plant, like acacia, licorice root, or wintergreen root.

It used to contain safrole oil, but the FDA banned it due to cancer risks. 

Birch beer is made from birch bark and sap and usually has wintergreen, licorice, yucca, and vanilla flavors. 

Here’s a simple recipe if you’d like to try brewing your birch beer.

Related Reading: How To Make Orange Beer – Find Out Here.

Homemade Recipe

A Man Enjoy a Cold Glass In A Bar.

Using Birch Bark

You can make birch beer using either birch bark oil or dried birch bark.

If you’re using oil, add it to water. 

But if you’re using bark, put the flakes, powder, or pieces into boiling water until it has a wintergreen flavor.

You can find birch bark pieces and oil in herbal and health food stores.

Sugar and Additives

You need birch bark and syrup to make birch beer.

Brown sugar will give it a light caramel color, and molasses will add depth. 

Other ingredients could be ginger, vanilla bean, and star anise.

Boil water, bark, and other additives for 30 minutes. 

Strain the water to remove ingredients and sediment.

If using birch oil, boil water and additives, strain, then add oil to hot water. 

Lastly, add sugar to taste to create the base.


Do you want to add carbonation to your birch beer?

You can do this by adding carbonated water or fermenting it. 

To ferment, add ale yeast to the base mixture.

Once cooled to 75°F, add a small amount of yeast – about a one-eighth teaspoon per gallon. 

Let it sit for 15 minutes, then transfer it to capped bottles.

Or, you can add carbonated water directly to the cooled base. 

If you use this method, use less water when making the base – make a thick syrup instead of a sweetened liquid.

Related Reading: Fermenting Maple Syrup – Read It Here.

Storage and Consumption

If you’re using carbonated water for your birch beer, it’s ready to drink as soon as it’s chilled.

But if you’re using yeast, let the mixture sit in sealed bottles for 36 hours before opening and testing the carbonation. 

If you want more, let it rest for 12-24 hours.

Make sure to store it in the fridge for two days before drinking. 

Yeast-made birch beer can last about a month.

Store it in a sealed jar for beer made from syrup and mix it with carbonated water when needed. 

The syrup can last 3-4 months in the fridge.

Related Reading: How Long Do You Chill Beer In The Fridge? – Read It Here.

Example Recipe

Why not give homemade birch beer a go?

You can use either birch oil or birch bark. 

Both of which come in powder, flakes, or medium-sized pieces. Here are the ingredients:

  • birchbark or birch oil
  • dry ale yeast
  • sugar
  • water

Now let’s get started! Here’s how to make your first batch of birch beer.

Birch Water

Try making birch water for your sweet beer!

Add a few drops of birch oil to a water bowl.

Or, boil birch bark in a saucepan for 5-10 minutes, then let it cool. 

Once cooled, filter the bark out of the water.

That’s it – you have your birch water!

The Syrup

Adding syrup to your birch beer will make it sweeter and give the yeast something to turn into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

You can use regular sugar, but molasses or brown sugar will add flavor and color. 

Put the sugar in a cup of water, bring it to a boil, and stir until it’s dissolved.

Let the syrup cool before using.

Add Flavors

Try using fresh ingredients to give your birch water a flavorful kick!

Put the birch water in a pan and add cinnamon sticks or crushed vanilla beans. 

Boil it, then sieve the flavoring out.

Let the water cool down, and enjoy!

Related Reading: How To Make Beer Taste Better – Learn More Here.

Mix Syrup With Flavored Water And Pitch

Pour the syrup into a mason jar and top it off with the birch water.

Stir it to dissolve the syrup. 

Now, take a bit of water and add your ale yeast.

Let it sit for a few minutes until it’s dissolved. 

Then, pour it into the mason jar with the syrup.

Put a lid on it and ensure it is at room temperature before mixing in the yeast.

Allowing The Mixture to Ferment

Store the mason jar at room temperature for up to 36 hours.

Don’t let it ferment too long, though, or the alcohol content will be too high. 

Taste it to make sure it’s as carbonated as you want.

When you’re happy with it, put it in the fridge for two days. 

That’ll slow fermentation and give you a cold, crispy, and minty drink.


Related Reading: Brewing Or Buying Beer – Which is Cheaper? – Learn More Here.

Final Thoughts

Try birch beer!

It’s not like regular beer, but it’s still delicious.

It’s minty, spicy, and well-balanced. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make your own.

Just grab some birch oil or bark from a health store and follow the steps. 

Enjoy your homemade beverage!