Working Birch Beer still at the Kutztown Folk Festival. Sign reads "Birch oil is distilled from the sap of the Black Birch tree..."
Birch beer is a carbonatedsoft drink made from herbal extracts, usually from birch bark, although originally birch beer was made from herbal extracts of oak bark. It has a taste similar to root beer. Various types of birch beer are available, distinguished by color. The color depends on the species of birch tree from which the sap is extracted (though enhancements via artificial coloring are common presently). Popular colors include brown, red, blue and clear (often called white birch beer), though others are possible. After the sap is collected, it is distilled to make birch oil. The oil is added to the carbonated drink to give it the distinctive flavor, reminiscent of teaberry. Black birch is the most common source of extract. In the dairy country of southeastern and central Pennsylvania, an ice cream soda made with vanilla ice cream and birch beer is called a Birch Beer float, while chocolate ice cream and birch beer makes a Black Cow. Alcoholic birch beer, in which the birch sap is fermented rather than reduced to an oil, has been known in the region from at least the mid-nineteenth century. There are dozens of brands of birch beer available.