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Spruce Beer - Garrison Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Spruce BeerSpruce Beer

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
82
good

49 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 49
Reviews: 30
rAvg: 3.58
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 2
Gots: 5 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Garrison Brewing Company visit their website
Nova Scotia, Canada

Style | ABV
Herbed / Spiced Beer |  7.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: kjyost on 06-26-2011

North America’s oldest beer style brewed with local Spruce & Fir tips, blackstrap molasses and dates. Dark amber and brown colouring. Aroma is a comforting mix of spruce boughs, caramel malts, molasses and dates. Complex and full-bodied, it balances the crisp bitterness of spruce and fir gum with the warming flavours of molasses and bittersweet chocolate.

35 IBU
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 49 | Reviews: 30 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Tychanos
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of leaddog
4.22/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Appearance - Pours a dark copper brown with a finger of bubbly tan head.

Smell - spruce needles, wood, toffee malts, hint of camp fire smoke, dark fruits, hint of molasses, and earthy hops.

Taste - Starts off with the spruce needles followed by the woodiness, toffee malts, camp fire smoke, dark fruits, hint of molasses, and earthy hops. Its like going for a hike and getting a whiff of fresh tree aromas.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Finishes with a pleasant toffee sweetness along with the camp fire smoke.

Overall - A interesting and unique brew. This is definitely not for everyone. I admire Garrison's approach with creating this brew. The spruce aromas and flavours are spot on. Worth a try if you are seeking an adventurous brew.

Photo of biboergosum
3.48/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

650ml bottle, nice little history lesson on the uses of spruce beer front and center on the label.

This beer pours a clear, rather dark red brick brown colour, with two fingers of puffy, slightly bubbly, and mostly creamy tan head, which leaves some low-lying island profile lace around the glass as it gently subsides.

It smells of grainy caramel malt, somewhat acrid and musty molasses, muddled black fruit, a mixed resinous coniferous tree bitterness (can't say it's particularly fresh or 'sprucey'), and a bit of Halls mentho lyptus informed alcohol astringency. The taste is campfire-singed pine tree branches, dry brown sugar, more musty molasses, now ethereal dark orchard fruit, bready caramel malt, very faint earthy, weedy, and woodsy hops, and a subtle warming booziness.

The carbonation is supportive enough in its plain-Jane fizzy and frothy emanations, the body a sturdy medium weight, and so-so smooth, the various acrid players here kind of inadvertently stepping on the roses, as such. It finishes off-dry, the graininess of the malt and the lingering touched dark sugars doing well in the face of that generally weird-ass bitterness.

I'm guessing that this is a pretty good approximation of what the garrison (hah) troops drank back in the day, and all I can say is that it's easy to be glad for the broad spectrum of developed and available hops now, it is. Not something I would want to drink much of myself, though, beyond the historical curio factor.

Photo of SchoonerNS
3.41/5  rDev -4.7%

Photo of DamageCase76
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%

Photo of DreamDeath
3.5/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of cmorrisse
1/5  rDev -72.1%

Photo of cam477
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%

Photo of AnakinVader
4.5/5  rDev +25.7%

Photo of souvenirs
3.58/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: black / cherry when held to the light, big foamy head, the colour of "spring brook froth" (says my mother...)
S: sweet molasses, can't really pick up the spruce
T: dark roasted malts, molasses, just a hint of spruce
F: nice.
O: The spruce isn't as prominent as I'd expected, but this is for sure a decent brew.

Photo of lgmol
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%

Photo of sdm9465
3/5  rDev -16.2%

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.02/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Tap (Hivernale): Poured a light brown color ale with a medium size foamy head. Aroma of spruce tips is quite powerful with light molasses notes also perceptible. Taste is dominated by spruce tips with some residual sugar also perceptible. Body is average as well as carbonation. I get what the goal of this beer is but I am just not sure that spruce beer is something I should be seeking on a regular basis.

Photo of CurtisD
3.25/5  rDev -9.2%

Photo of Electros
4.42/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Citrus, malt apparent, a vibrant pete smoke, and spruce. This is malty, almost liquid bbq smoke, carmel malt, and sugary tree sap! Dark amber in colour, mouth-feel very think, full on the tongue. A dark amber colour. This doesn't disappoint, one of the most unique I had the pleasure of drinking.

Photo of Molson2000
4.75/5  rDev +32.7%

Photo of MattPS
2.5/5  rDev -30.2%

Photo of joemcgrath27
3.62/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - clear dark brown, thumb of head dissipated to a half finger leaving some random lacing
S - strong aromas of molasses, pine tar, all spice, and dark fruits, very interesting
T - wow this is unique, strong dark molasses, spruce, dark fruits, licorice, and lots of spice
M - sticky and heavy, the spices and alcohol have a kick that get up in your nostrils, finishes full and sticky
O - very unique and worth a try, in your face all around, not something you want more than one of but I would call this a must try for its unique qualities

Photo of biegaman
3.66/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Garrison's Spruce Beer is a hell of neat thing to drink, but really isn't much to look at. It'd be easily mistaken for prune juice, sharing not only the color but also the same complexion and lack of (visible) carbonation. The gastronomic appeal of a spruce beer is highly subjective, but I think muddy brown liquids are a universal turn-off.

If the aroma smells unusual to you, and you're not smart enough to clue in given the name, this beer is brewed with local (I can't imagine the need to import them) spruce and fir tips as well as (slightly less unconventional) blackstrap molasses and dates. Taken altogether, it's beyond atypical. It smells like no beer I've smelled before.

While it is difficult to recognize any of those components outright, one can taste, assuming he is paying close attention, bits and pieces of each. The flavor is thick and sticky-sweet (molasses), with notes of sweet, dried dark fruits (dates) and lots of drying, bark-like overtones and sappy, syrupy resins (you figure it out).

Does it tastes good? Well, that depends on who you ask. I say yes. It reminds of me of grandma's date squares, loaded with brown sugar, with remnants of maple syrup and good pairings for long-steeped black tea. There is also the unmistakable taste of spruce tips and various other tree parts, but their resinous flavor is, although a bit soapy, appealing to me.

There's enough sweetness in here that it should please just about anyone, assuming they don't mind a bit of tree sap with it (and don't already have diabetes). This, by the way, for the kids out there, is what *real* gum tastes like - don't believe me, go to northern Quebec and ask for Double-Bubble! I can't believe how little of the 7.5% alcohol is noted.

If we ever do get time-travel up and running, our ancestors might wonder how the television or elevator works, but they'll likely recognize Garrison's Spruce Beer (those of East North American decent anyhow). Not everyone will share the same affection as eighteenth-century sailors, but anyone unsure if they do or not aught to find out.

Photo of beerhunter13
2/5  rDev -44.1%

Photo of CAMRAhardliner
3.28/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours chestnut brown with red glints. The tan, shortlived head leaves lots of lace trails on the glass. Lots of spicey, herbal spruce fills the nose, it reminds me of the smell of camping up north. The taste is dominated by a strong, medicinal spruce character. Caramel, cookie dough malts, ginger, and figs show in the background. The mouthfeel is somewhat numbing from the spruce blast. The finish is sweetish and herbal and piney.

The spruce is perhaps a little overpowering in this beer. Worth a try because it is definitely unique, but an acquired taste.

Photo of andrenaline
3.55/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

From notes... Props to peensteen for hooking me and a few friends up with a case of this stuff.

A - Pours a dark brown colour, reminiscent of root beer, finger of beige head with some retention and no real lacing.

S - A tad mild, soapy scent off the top, molasses and black licorice dominate.

T - Loads of molasses and rich caramel and toffee, some leafy green hop notes are noticeable alongside faint spruce notes. ABV is well hidden and a smokey earth flavour lingers.

M - Medium bodied, smooth and finishes sticky.

O - A unique concept and my first taste of the style. Definitely not a beer you could drink several of in one sitting. The molasses is a bit overpowering and I would've liked a bit more spruce flavours. Given the style, it serves its purpose well, but it's unlikely I would go out of my way to try this again.

Photo of mintjellie
1.97/5  rDev -45%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

Deep ruby brown colour. Two finger beige head, somewhat retentive, no lacing. Strong evergreen and molasses scent accompanied by more delicate notes of dried fruit and chocolate. It kind of smells like some sort of spice or fruitcake. It smells fairly inviting. Too bad my nose decided to betray me.

I find the first sip of it tolerable. The initial flavour is what I imagine pine tar would taste like. Then the molasses overpowers it, choking my palate in a grip harder to break than rigor mortis. Each sip of it becomes a great struggle to get down. I find myself physically shuddering as I force each mouthful back, fighting my throats desire to close shut. Oh, there are chocolate and date square notes here as well, but they cannot save me from the molasses death grip. It's not that I hate molasses - I made some tasty ginger snap cookies a few weeks back, and they had molasses in them. There's just so much molasses in this. It's like someone took some blackstrap and diluted it with carbonated water.

I can't do this. This is too much. I have to pour this down the drain. This is my second experience (oh yes, it's certainly an experience!) drinking this beer. I managed to put back at most a fifth of the bottle. That's more than I managed the first time.

Almost medium bodied with medium carbonation. It's hard to really judge mouthfeel when you're swallowing something as quickly as possible just to get it out of your mouth.

This just isn't for me. I'm sure there are people out there who would like this, and probably some who would even love it. If you love molasses and pine tar, this beer is for you. Personally though, I don't love it. I think I actually loathe it.

Photo of SebD
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: It has a nice ruby/brown color to it. It has a nice thick beige head that dies down slowly and leaves very little lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitly give out hints of pine and spruce with some roasted caramelly malts, earthy hops, molasses and dark fruit.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has a dominant tree flavor (pine and spruce), slight earthy character, molasses and dark fruit sweetness with some light roasted caramelly malts and a slight smokiness.

Mouthfeel: It has a light carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel. Slight lingering bitterness.

Drinkability: It's a smooth drinkable beer accompanied with good flavors and aromas.

Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.3/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Though this was available in the LCBO, my buddy was recently in Halifax and brought this back from the source! Label describes this as a brew designed to imitate the early style of brewing of post-arrival Canada. Like gruit, this brew relies upon spruce and other herbs for flavorings. Reminds me of the spruce tea used by early European settlers to ward off scurvy. Use what you have around!

Poured into a nonic. Sludgy molasses-ruby in colour, with about an inch of head. Nice ring, decent retention.

Wow - no mistaking the spruce boughs in this brew. A bit of molasses and chocolate lingering in the back.

Definitely a strong blast of spruce up front, before the molasses, malt and chocolate get a turn. This tastes like Algonquin. Still, an interesting flavor that certainly feels authentic. The spruce burns a bit, so this brew is tougher to get down than most. Carbonation a bit strong, but without it it would be difficult to get down.

As a history buff, I always give a tip of the cap to brewers who experiment with the old styles. I love experiencing the flavours that might have been consumed in the past, and seeing how brewers interpret old recipes to suit modern tastes. However, just because it's an authentic historical brew doesn't mean it's going to be fantastic; suffice to say, a lot of the changes that were made in brewing have been done for a reason. While this Spruce Beer is an interesting sipper, I can't say I'd want to have this more than once. I will say, however, that the brew from Nova Scotia did taste better than the one from Ontario - but that just goes without saying. Worth a try, just to say you've had it.

Good to see you again, BA!

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Spruce Beer from Garrison Brewing Company
82 out of 100 based on 49 ratings.