Last time we talked about birch beer we focused on three products from the same company, and that’s great, but hardly fair to the breadth of birch beer experience. So this week we’re grabbing a wider variety and I couldn’t be happier. As I explained last time, birch beer brings me a special nostalgic joy.
Kutztown Birch Beer
Kutztown Bottling Works, Kutztown, PA
While passed through various owners, the Kutztown Bottling Works dates back to 1851. Of course it was prohibition that pushed them into the soda business. The history on their website is sprawling and desperately needs an editor, but it seems the soft drink side of things came from a separate local company started in 1852 and bought by the owner of Kutztown in 1928. It’s complicated.
Whilst it is a brown birch beer, the one variety of birch beer I never experienced in my youth, this one has a fairly straightforward birch flavor. Just a little vanilla, just a bit creamy. Basically the epitome of what a birch beer should taste like.
Boulder Birch Beer
Rocky Mountain Soda Company, Denver, CO
Made with “Carbonated Colorado Water, Rocky Mountain Beet Sugar” and other all natural ingredients, Boulder Birch Beer has a beaver on the bottle which hopefully isn’t an indication of the “natural” source of it’s vanilla flavor. http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/castoreum.asp
The birch/wintergreen in this is very subtle, only on the back of the tongue as I swallow. It does have a good bite to it, but the flavor is mostly vanilla and cinnamon, which is definitely interesting and delicious. A lot more complex than other birch beer products, but perhaps too much so. It’s weird, in a root beer I’d praise that complexity, but in a birch beer I’m just not looking for it.
Burley Birch Beer
Hippo Size Beverages (Orig. San Antonio, TX)
Orca Beverages, Inc. Mukilteo, WA
Hippo Size is originally from San Antonio, TX, a trademark of Alamo Bottling Works started in 1928. It is, like many of our other root beers, now a legacy brand revived by Orca Beverages. While Orca visually represents the hippo with a shorter, squatter bottle than their other products, the original bottles were a bit neater, all glass embossed with an outward bulge at the base of the neck wider than the base of the bottle where the hippo and the words “hippo size” were placed.
This is a red, but interestingly not -- like many a red I’ve had in my life -- just cremier birch beer tinted red. It is very creamy, that’s true, but the birch flavor is cut but something else that hits me almost with a cherry cough syrup flavor. That cherryness is subtle, though. A good balance without being overly sweet.