Written by The Herald-News
Remember having root beer on tap? If you had gone into Matt Eliasen’s Recreational Parlor in Frazer, circa 1900-1950, you would have had just that.
The first of its kind in the area or in Montana was a Magnus Root Beer Barrel with tap which was manufactured by Magnus Fruit Company of San Francisco, Calif., and is now on display in the Wolf Point Museum. This barrel was used for many years in his store.
The custom of brewing and drinking root beer goes back to the 18th century. Farm owners used to brew their own light-alcoholic beverage root beer for family get-togethers and other social events.
During the 19th century, some pharmacists tried to sell their version of root beer as a miracle drug. In 1876, Charles Hires introduced a commercial version at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. This “root tea” was first marketed to Pennsylvania coal miners.
In 1893, root beer was sold as a bottled soft drink to the public, especially during Prohibition.
In 1960, due to the FDA label of the ingredient “sassafras root” as a carcinogen, companies experimented with artificial flavors, preparation techniques and root beer taste preservation arriving at today’s product. There are 15 main ingredients, two foam/froth ingredients, 15 spice ingredients and five “other” ingredients. Root beer is now a carbonated, sweetened beverage, originally made using the root of a sassafras plant as the primary flavor and can still be found at the fountain or in a bottle or can.
The Wolf Point Area Museum will close Sept. 13 for the season it is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
In the last 12 and a half weeks, 635 visitors have stepped through the Museum’s front doors including visitors from Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Australia, Italy, Switzerland and Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, Canada.