Dismiss Notice
Hello, is it beer you're looking for?

Learn more about beer. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for as low as 68% off the single issue price.

Subscribe now →

Spruce Beer - Garrison Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Spruce BeerSpruce Beer

Educational use only; do not reuse.

30 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 30
Hads: 49
Avg: 3.58
pDev: 19.27%
Wants: 5
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: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
Reviews: 30 | Hads: 49
Reviews by Molson2000:
Photo of Molson2000
4.75/5  rDev +32.7%

More User Reviews:
Photo of cam477
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%

Photo of beerhunter13
2/5  rDev -44.1%

Photo of Rijtjeshuis
3.71/5  rDev +3.6%
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.

 1,602 characters

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!

 1,676 characters

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.

 1,479 characters

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.

 1,688 characters

Photo of Sammy
3.9/5  rDev +8.9%
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!

 470 characters

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 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

 539 characters

Photo of heebes
2.8/5  rDev -21.8%
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.

 438 characters

Photo of jsnoek
4/5  rDev +11.7%

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.

 313 characters

Photo of Stocean1
4.02/5  rDev +12.3%
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.

 375 characters

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.

 407 characters

Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.63/5  rDev +1.4%
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.

 867 characters

Photo of mmurphy525
4.5/5  rDev +25.7%

Photo of CurtisD
3.25/5  rDev -9.2%

Photo of DamageCase76
3.75/5  rDev +4.7%

Photo of spinrsx
3.15/5  rDev -12%
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.

 683 characters

Photo of DreamDeath
3.5/5  rDev -2.2%

Photo of liamt07
3.06/5  rDev -14.5%
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.

 1,064 characters

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.

 661 characters

Photo of thehyperduck
4.13/5  rDev +15.4%
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: 4.13, 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.

 1,707 characters

Photo of Long813
3.62/5  rDev +1.1%
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.

 716 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50  | nextlast
Spruce Beer from Garrison Brewing Company
82 out of 100 based on 30 ratings.