Thursday, June 9, 2011

Olde Heritage Rootbeer - Amish Farm Brew Lancaster County

On a back road in Lancaster County Pennsylvania it was rumored that an Amish farm was famous for making homemade root beer. Through the help of my brother Mike I was able to track this elusive farm brew down and found myself in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish Country. The farm was identified by a very unique hand painted sign of a frosty mug of root beer that clearly outlined “No Sunday Sales”. The long drive brought me to a tool shed behind the farm house where a sign instructed me to “Stop Here For Root Beer”. Inside the tool shed I discovered many pickled veggies and baked goodies. They even had some root beer candles and mini tin signs like the one at the threshold of their driveway. Although I was very tempted to indulge in the pies, cakes, and breads…. I was not here for baked goods. I was here for Amish Root Beer!!!!

I talked to the very bright and cheerful young lady behind the counter and asked her about the root beer and the farm. Her name was Lillian and she explained that one day a week she works on this farm helping the owners sell their root beer. She told me the farm is owned by Elam Jr. & Naomi Ann Fisher and that they began making root beer a few years ago. She said that during the summer she stays very busy greeting the tourist and passing them cold bottles of the Fisher brew. Officially it is known as Olde Heritage Root Beer but on this particular day all of the bottles were without labels. I very much enjoyed talking with Lillian and provided her one of our bottle cap magnets as a token of my appreciation, she happily accepted it.

As you can imagine I could not wait to pop this top. I bought a cold single for me, a single for Marc, and as requested a gallon jug for Mike. The prices were not too outrageous for homemade brew. The single 20oz glass bottles were $2 and the gallon glass jug was $6. As I began to drink I quickly realized that something was not making sense!! While I was there talking with Lillian and taking pictures at least 12 people stopped in and bought bottles of this farm brew. I was only there 20 minutes. My problem was figuring out why so many people were drawn to this so called homemade root beer. The real issue I had was the unmistakable gut wrenching flavor that was awarded me with each swig of this Amish root beer.

I kept trying to find the flavor that was drawing so many people down the long drive way in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch Country but I found nothing but some swill that will make you ill. I am not joking about that…. I felt very ill for a long time after consuming this remarkably UNIQUE root beer!! It was unique because I am certain it is the only brew I have ever tasted the very profound flavor of cow manure. YES…. You read this post correctly…. MENURE!!!!!! I love the Amish people, I love their religious expression and their conviction to their way of life…. But seriously this root beer….. its not the kind of expression I appreciate.

So again I must remind you that 12 people lined up for this “Homemade Root Beer” in the short time I was there. The only way I could understand it was to frame all of this within the context from which it is being sold. Tourists crowd this area yearly seeking for all things Amish. There is even a store nearby that sells “Amish Outhouses” and they sell many. The reality is people come here to experience Amish life, they get horse & buggy rides, they eat the baked goods, buy the hand stitched quilts, and stock up on the handmade furniture. Why would root beer be any different? So what if there is a very obvious FARM flavor… that’s what we came for!!!! It was from this context that I was compelled to perform my review. So the glass jug was a huge plus…. very nostalgic!! A gallon of brew for $6 is a sweet deal especially when it’s in GLASS….. you will not find that anywhere else!! The very cheerful Lillian dressed in her traditional Amish dress and lending me amazing courtesy by answering all my questions was certainly what all tourists want. The flavor did carry more than just natural manure, I could also identify wintergreen and some liquorish, in fact minus the manure it was quite tolerable… The carbonation was light and old school as you could guess, achieved through yeast which left the expected sentiment at the bottom. The odor was heavy on the manure but you could catch an occasional glimpse of root beer extract. The cool sign on the road was also something I value greatly!! With all things considered, and certainly not just judging on taste alone, I grant this Farm Brew 2.5 Frosty Mugs….. it was well worth the Amish experience… at least once!!!

On a side note Mike could not wait for his gallon glass jug to cool in the fridge and had to pop that top as soon as I brought it into his house…. The results were disastrous!!!! I will let him finish this story however…. But the photos are posted on facebook!!!!

If you are ever in Lancaster County it is well worth the stop to grab some Homemade Root Beer… if not for the taste at least for the experience and to say hello to Lillian!!!

Stop in at the Fisher Farm but NOT on Sunday: 3217 Old Philadelphia Pike Ronks, PA 17572



Anonymous said...

These folks are friends of ours! We love them dearly and we head to Lancaster about every 3 - 4 weeks. In fact ... we love our Amish friends so much - we too opened an Old Fashioned General Store in Cumberland, VA and we too now sell Homemade Root Beer! :-) Great story! Katrina Blankenship

Brian said...

I just came across this post after pouring my second glass of root beer from the jug I bought at an Amish market in PA this past weekend. The phrase I googled was "Amish root beer manure."

Thank you for confirming that I am not crazy and this stuff does indeed smell and taste like manure. Lordy lordy.