Low-alcohol beverages made of juniper pseudo-fruits were once common in parts of northern and northeastern Poland. The aim of this article is to investigate the history of juniper beer production, its role in local communities, changes in recipes, and signs of revival of the tradition. Archival ethnographic sources from all over the country were reviewed, and field research was carried out in two juniper beer producing areas in the Northeast region: (1) Kurpie, and (2) Podlasie. Juniper beers were made in central and northeastern Poland, mainly for weddings, holidays, or other special occasions. The tradition gradually declined throughout the twentieth century and has now practically disappeared. Juniper beer, however, recently has been popularized in the Kurpie region as a regional specialty, aimed at visitors to the area since the 1990s. The beverage is gaining increasing media attention, not only in the region but across Poland, and it is now produced in a large proportion of households in Kurpie (either for sale or for domestic use). In Podlasie, juniper beer is still mainly remembered as a drink from the past, with very few individuals still making it. Juniper beer is an example of a tradition revival combining a few emerging trends, among which are the use of wild foods and attention to local recipes and home-fermented dishes. The changing role of juniper berries in the history of the drink should also be noted. Originally, the berries were the richest local source of sugar, and thus they naturally became the main ingredient of fermented beverages. With time, the composition of the drink evolved and sugar and honey were added. The original juniper components now serve mainly as flavoring, giving the drink its characteristic resinous taste and fragrance.
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Vol. 34 • No. 1