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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer

Before I can truly review Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer, I should really get into the difference between birch beer and its more popular cousin, root beer: well, there is none. At one time there was, and maybe in the teeny-tiniest little indie brews with the most organic ingredients there still is, but as of 2009, almost all "beers" have the delectably ambiguous flavoring known only as "Artificial and Natural" on their labels.

Historically, the difference has been that birch beer is flavored with the bark and sap of a birch tree, and that root beer is flavored with sassafras. What this means for anyone less than a tree connoisseur is absolutely nothing, other than the fact that "sassafras" is an awesome word. The flavors nowadays are virtually the exact same. Some argue that birch beer is the milder of the two, but I've always considered it a bit more bitter and sharp, a little more herbal in its flavor. But with the fluctuation just in the popular root beers currently on the market, from Mug's creamy end of the spectrum to the bite of Barq's, it's sort of just a made up differentiation anyway.

Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer falls fittingly right into that mediocrity. It's not a bad soda, but there really isn't all that much to say about it. It's birch beer. Or root beer, maybe. Possibly sarsaparilla. It's kinda brown and tastes like they might have put some kind of plant parts in it. And that's about it. Just like everything we do here in P.A. Dutch Country, it's more function than form. We are veritable masters of flavorless food that just gets you from Point A to Point B and then comes out of Point C at some point later in the day. Much like pot pie or ham loaf, Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer holds its place among our culture of efficiently mediocre edible fuel.

I guess ultimately, as disappointing as USA Beverage, Inc.'s little bottle of birch beer is, they've totally nailed what they are going for. You couldn't ask for a blander, less memorable soda, and that perfectly crystallizes what Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine is all about. Plus, with high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient, you can get fat just like us Central Pennsylvanians as well! Win-win? I think so. At least it has that cool hex sign logo. A single bonus point for that against the weight of the cheesy horse and buggy silhouette for graphic design.

TASTE: 3/10
LOOK: 5/10
OVERALL: D+

PRICE: $2.99/4-12oz. btls ($.06/oz)
BUY IT: Weaver Markets, Adamstown PA

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