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DeRusha Eats: Tree Fort Root Beer

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Eva Duckler, 17, has had a busy summer doing normal teenage stuff. You know, like graduating from high school, building a bottling line and launching a root-beer brand.

“I’ve been trying root beer since I was really young, probably tried hundreds of root beers,” Duckler said.

Tree Fort Root Beer isn’t like Dads or Barq’s.

“I’m a super nostalgic person, which is maybe bizarre for only being 17-years-old,” she said. “But I really liked the idea of thinking back on what it was like to be really young and going to a drive-in maybe and getting a frosty mug of root beer.”

It’s all made by hand at Verdant Tea, the Minneapolis tea house and cafe owned by her brother, David.

“I don’t know anything about business,” she said. “I wouldn’t have known, you know, how to get a Minnesota tax ID number if it weren’t for him, for example. And so we’ve been a good team for that.”

Making root beer and making tea have a lot in common.

“Basically you just let it steep for about 20 minutes,” Duckler said.

She’s using sarsaparilla, of course, but adding chicory, ginger, anise and clove.

“And then there’s a little bit of mintiness, so some peppermint and spearmint,” she said.

Cane sugar gets caramelized, the initial herbs get strained out and then mixed into the sugar.

“There’s no artificial flavors, it’s using only cane sugar and honey to sweeten it,” she said.

She adds water, carbonates it in big kegs and then bottles it.

“You can do three bottles at a time,” Duckler said. “We made it in the garage at home. A couple hours, couple hundred dollars at Home Depot.”

Made by hand and from the heart, Tree Fort Root Beer is just the beginning. It’s really good, and it’s so different from what people are used to in a root beer.

While Duckler’s away at college, she’ll be studying more flavors of soda.

“I just want to keep growing it as much as I can, really,” she said.

You can get it at Verdant Tea, Linden Hills Co-Op and next week it will be on sale at Seward Community Co-Op.

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