Birch Beer and Walleye at the Minnesota State Fair

Wednesday, September 1, at the Minnesota State Fair, it was show your library card day to receive $2.00 off the entry price. (Hey, I am always looking for a deal.) The information about the prices and deals is on the newly designed website, that is much snazzier and user friendly.  Click here: ADMISSION.

The day was cool and sunny. This was an ideal day for those fair goers who wilt under the 90-degree weather like me.  No one looked to be in any hurry to go anywhere in particular.  I joined the throngs of people to navigate towards some food.  After flowing with the traffic, I ambled by the DNR ponds of fish and through the agriculture building where I purchased a token package of honey taffy. It was sticky and sweet, with a mellower flavor than the artificially flavored kinds of taffy. Then passed through the wine tasting area, which was doing a brisk business selling samples and little glasses of local Minnesota made wines.  Moved on without tasting to the “Food” building as it was past my lunchtime.  The call of the walleye with birch beer drew me in, “I’ll have a walleye sandwich and a birch beer, please.”  The friendly woman replied, “It comes with tomatoes, lettuce and cheese.” No cheese,” I said.  She looked me in the eye and said, “You know the birch beer has no alcohol in it.”  “Yes, ma’am.” I smiled at her with some excitement.  She poured my birch beer and gave me my walleye sandwich on a piece of wrap tissue paper. (Good not a lot of waste.) There was a squeeze bottle of tartar sauce that I used to add a smidgeon of flavor on the generic bun.  I walked out into the sunshine and sat on a wall to eat my walleye, with hundreds of people and watch the world go by me.  I was content.

Birch beer if you have never tried it, is similar to root beer yet not so sweetie sweet.  (Yes, it is from birch trees.) That means it’s described as herbal. (Oh my, not that.)

Today, my friend Richard told me birch beer comes from Native Americans.  Then he began to tell me about all the ceremonial beverages that were made in North and South America and beyond. (I’ll leave the telling of that entire story to Richard, the food expert.) Besides birch beer, root beer, sarsaparilla, and ginger beer, all came from native people, my research tells me.

One of the producers of birch beer is White Rock Beverages. “White Rock Beverages (White Rock Products Corporation) is an American beverage company located in Whitestone, NY. Pharmacist, H.M. Colver in Waukesha Wisconsin, established the company in 1871. Potawatomi Indians and settlers believed that the nearby White Rock natural spring had special medicinal powers, so White Rock Beverages started out as destination for vacationers and health seekers. By 1876, the company was bottling and distributing the natural spring water throughout the country.”  They went on to bottle soft drinks.

Another company that produces birch beer and claims a patent on it is “Boylan Bottling Company, an American gourmet soft drink manufacturer.”

Boylan’s first product was birch beer, formulated in 1891 in Paterson, New Jersey, by pharmacist William Boylan.[2]” Retrieved From Wikipedia September 2, 2010.

Sometimes the origins of foods are lost in the acquisition of the knowledge.  Those earnest pharmacists who acquired the patents and rights to the beverage claimed it as their own invention.  The Native people who shared their knowledge of plants and animals probably never received anything for having shared the knowledge.

Nonetheless, birch beer is worth a try.  I grew up with White Rock Beverages and clear or white birch beer.  It was a moment of nostalgia in the middle of a perfect day. The walleye was good too.

Enjoy a new taste today.

For more details click on any of the links in the article.

About kunstkitchen

Visual artist and writer hunting words, languages, visions, and insight in my kitchen - connecting Art (Kunst) and culture and slow food cooking. Credits: Do not own a microwave oven and never have. Do not own a food processor. Chopped veggies in a Zen monastery for a weekend. (Seriously) Classically trained artist. Paint and draw with traditional materials. Live in the Northland where it's six months of winter. Appreciate the little things in life. Sharing food and art experiences and the lessons that my talented and generous friends have given me.
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