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Spruce Beer - Garrison Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Spruce BeerSpruce Beer

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
81
good

44 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 44
Reviews: 28
rAvg: 3.55
pDev: 20.85%
Wants: 3
Gots: 3 | 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:
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 added by: kjyost on 06-26-2011)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 44 | Reviews: 28 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by Molson2000:
Photo of Molson2000
4.75/5  rDev +33.8%

Molson2000, Sep 11, 2012
More User Reviews:
Photo of cam477
3.75/5  rDev +5.6%

cam477, Feb 13, 2014
Photo of beerhunter13
2/5  rDev -43.7%

beerhunter13, May 14, 2012
Photo of Rijtjeshuis
3.73/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

look - pours a rich, deep-red amber to light mahogany. Clarity is very good. Head is awesome: it was a very light tan, rose up very large and moussy, fell at slowly with decent lacing. Some nice carbonation clinging to the inside of the glass.

smell - pretty heavy on the malt in balance. I get a rich malt filled with raisins and molasses with a bread-like character The spicing is there on the finish, but it isn't too strong. The malt profile, to me, seems a lot like a doppelbock in tone. The spruce or hops come off as a bit earthy and it works well with the malts. I could have gone for a bit more spruce on the nose.

taste - similar to the nose, but with a heavier presence of the spruce spicing in there. The malt had the same dark-sweet doppelbock flavor thing going on (caramel, raisins, molasses, bread-crust, etc). It also has some smokiness in there, which takes it a bit further from a bock. The spruce, which is relatively mild, picks up well on the darker fruitiness of the malts and carries it to a good, though sweet, finish. The balance is, despite some bitterness, very malty. The finish is a bit coppery. No alcohol, earthy hops (if not the spruce).

feel - medium-high body with carbonation that we gentler than I though it would be given the giant head. I found it was a bit too cloying/syrupy feeling.

overall it was interesting, but not the sort of thing I'm rushing to get more of. I think it's a cool one-off, and nice for sipping - but like heavier bocks, not a session brew.
I'd pair with some nice roasted, succulent red-meat. Maybe something like duck or game as well.

Rijtjeshuis, Feb 26, 2012
Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.28/5  rDev -7.6%
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!

JohnnyBarman, Mar 03, 2012
Photo of mintjellie
1.83/5  rDev -48.5%
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.

mintjellie, Apr 15, 2012
Photo of Sammy
3.9/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

500 ml LCBO. Forest breeze aroma, although could have been even more fir. Dark brown colour, small head. Smooth above average mouthfeel. Bitter without big IBU. Alcohol warming. Thought it was a 6% until it kicked in. Satisfying. Good drinkability for those appreciating this style. Nice roast, making it a little akin to a Black IPA.Sentimental value as my Dad liked spruce, which was a staple given to Canadian soldiers. Chocolate aftertaste a bonus. Nicely done boys!

Sammy, Feb 02, 2012
Photo of joemcgrath27
3.6/5  rDev +1.4%
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

joemcgrath27, Jun 09, 2012
Photo of heebes
2.78/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

500 ml bottle.

Pours mahogony with ruby highlights, fingers worth of medium tan head that dissipates like a soda. Nose is bready and caramel malt, mollasses, amber yeast, spices and pine needles. Taste is bold upfront, mollasses is prominent, sugary, pine and spruce evident. Mostly malt; bready caramel. Mouthfeel is a tad light, medium carbonation. Drinkability is limiting, would only have the one bottle.
Overall, worth a try once.

heebes, Mar 03, 2012
Photo of jsnoek
4/5  rDev +12.7%

jsnoek, Feb 07, 2012
Photo of souvenirs
3.58/5  rDev +0.8%
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.

souvenirs, Dec 21, 2013
Photo of Stocean1
4.03/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

poured a one finger head with little retention or lace, dark brown with ruby highlights.

Aroma is smoky, spruce/fir boughs, sweet molasses, dark fruit, earthy hops.

Taste is a little boozy, smoky maple, sweet molasses, pepper.

Medium body with plenty of carbonation, bitter and a little tart, still very drinkable and well balanced.

Overall a neat brew I am glad I tried.

Stocean1, Feb 05, 2012
Photo of Phyl21ca
3.01/5  rDev -15.2%
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.

Phyl21ca, Mar 06, 2013
Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.63/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle to pint glass.

A -Medium to dark brown with a ruby glow around the edges. Two fingers of thick, foamy cream coloured head with a tinge of brown in it and good retention.

S - Sweet brown sugar and molasses notes up front, followed by earthy and pine notes. Some spruce aromas are detectable as well but they don't dominate the nose (which is a good thing).

T - Huge earthy/piney/spruce flavour up front that gives way to sweet molasses, tree sap and brown sugar flavours. Some herbal notes in the background as well. The spruce flavours are definitely pungent but the big sweet malt and molasses flaovurs help to balance it out.

M - Medium body, chewy and smooth. Light carbonation.

O - Not the most easy-drinking beer but that isn't the goal with this one. A great winter sipper and a really good job by Garrison pulling off a good beer in this style.

TheSevenDuffs, Feb 05, 2012
Photo of mmurphy525
4.5/5  rDev +26.8%

mmurphy525, Dec 16, 2011
Photo of CurtisD
3.25/5  rDev -8.5%

CurtisD, Jan 18, 2013
Photo of spinrsx
3.13/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

500ml bottle - from the Rideau Street LCBO

Appearance - Slightly hazy copper colour with a large size fizzy beige coloured head. There an average amount of carbonation and there is some faint lacing. The head lasted for around 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, caramel, pine, herbal

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste caramel, pine, and malts. There is also some dark fruits mixed with some earthy herbal notes. It ends with a sweet malty piney aftertaste.

Overall - I had a feeling I wouldn't be a fan of this one.. It's not bad I guess, it's just not for me. Points for originality but not something that is all that drinkable.

spinrsx, Feb 01, 2012
Photo of DreamDeath
3.5/5  rDev -1.4%

DreamDeath, May 18, 2014
Photo of liamt07
3/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bottle from the LCBO, 500ml into a tulip. Bottled December 12, 2011.

Dark brown/mahogany body which appears filtered. Creamy tan head of a couple fingers - decent retention and webbed lace. Nose has a bit of earth, wood, molasses and subtle herbal note that isn't overtly spruce. Some foresty and raw 'sap' characteristics. Taste is rich and malty, sweet with a shit-ton of spruce tips - literally, this immediately brings to mind the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree being put up in my living room as a kid, into some hot sugar water in the base holding the tree up. Unfortunately, this isn't anything I would've wanted to have put into a beer! Again, sugary and 'sappy' notes, molasses and rich dark bread notes. Some spicing and some mint flavour as well. Long lingering aftertaste, mouthfeel is medium heavy with a good carbonation. Appears decent for what I think it attempts to approximate, but this is just way too sweet with too much going on - spruce is overwhelming in a negative way. I really wanted to like this, but this ended up down the drain.

liamt07, Feb 28, 2012
Photo of SebD
3.78/5  rDev +6.5%
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.

SebD, Apr 10, 2012
Photo of thehyperduck
4.18/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

500 mL bottle; packaged on December 12th 2011.

Pours a deep reddish-brown colour, not quite dark enough to be truly opaque. I was a little aggressive with the pour and wound up with nearly three fingers of silky, foamy tan-coloured head. It takes a few minutes to wilt down to a more manageable level, leaving lots of sticky lacing on the sides of the glass. The aroma is pleasant for sure, but a little subdued. Dark roasted malts and molasses are fairly prominent, with underlying notes of fresh, resiny pine sap.

One sip and I've already made up my mind - this stuff is a winner in my books. Rich, full flavour. Dominated at first by sweetness from the dates and molasses, accompanied by dark malts, roasted nuts and a faint smokiness. Solid balancing bitterness toward the finish, provided partially by the spruce tips and partially by the earthy, herbal hops. Slightly minty, with a malty, warming aftertaste - the alcohol is noticeable, but it works. Reasonably light carbonation for a nice smooth mouthfeel. On the heavier side of medium-bodied, leaving behind a sticky, syrupy feel on the palate.

I am a bit of a beer purist - I don't mind trying these fruit/herbed/spiced-type beers, but I usually consider them more of an interesting experiment rather than something I would purchase regularly. Garrison's Spruce Beer is different though - it's a delicious, relatively unorthodox and above all satisfying brew that is worth seeking out.

Final Grade: 4.18, or a high A- on the letter grade scale. Hopefully this stuff makes it to Ontario next winter, because I can easily see myself craving another bottle of this in the future. Worth a try for sure - a great late-winter/early-spring sipper.

thehyperduck, Feb 07, 2012
Photo of Long813
3.6/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a dark green/red body, looks almost swamp like, but still clear. One finger of tan head with decent retention and leaves some lacing.

S: Strong notes of earthy hops - likely spruce and some caramel. Alcohol comes through as the beer warms up.

T: Most notable is the strong pine and malts. Caramel and booze are mixed together well. Some figs some through as well. Again, as the beer warms, you can really taste the alcohol.

M: Medium bodied with little carbonation. Alcohol appear to become more evident as it warms up. Leaves a malty alcoholic finish.

O: It's an interesting beer, but nothing I could or would have more than one of. This is the second season of this brew, so it can only get better.

Long813, Jan 06, 2012
Photo of funkengruven
3.58/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Found this at the local LCBO and although expensive, decided to give it a go.

This poured a dark ruby with abundant head, reducing to a thin layer of foam with a bit of lacing. The best way to describe the smell of this would be, Arboreal, very reminiscent of the woods. This woodsy aroma is prevalent in the flavor, goes down rather easily however has a bit of an astringent mouthfeel in the finish. The spruce is very evident in the aftertaste, tastes like the malt was smoked in a spruce fire, it stays with you for a few minutes.

Definitely an interesting beer.

funkengruven, Feb 17, 2012
Photo of bryehn
4.5/5  rDev +26.8%

bryehn, Jan 29, 2012
Photo of jrenihan
3.73/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottled December 12, 2011.

Beer is a dark caramel amber, with a full two-finger widths of beige head. Dissipates at a moderate pace, leaves a bit of lacing.

Smell is big, unusual and very nice. Lots of pine, caramel, tree scents other than pine that must be spruce, a sugary scent that reminds me of sap (power of suggestion?). Probably not for everyone, but it works for me!

What works in the nose works less well in the flavour. Huge bubblegum flavour, lots of pine and spruce. Other unusual flavour stick out - mint, herbs generally. Caramel malt is there as well with some earthy hop flavours. Like the scent it is very unique, but I don't find it particularly enjoyable. Nice in some ways but not great for long.

Pretty high carbonation level, medium bodied, a bit sticky. Too much carbonation.

Overall, an incredibly unusual and unique beer. Great smell, not a great taste. This is probably a beer that some people would love, but only a few.

jrenihan, Feb 01, 2012
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Spruce Beer from Garrison Brewing Company
81 out of 100 based on 44 ratings.