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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:
Photo of Sammy
Sammy

Ontario (Canada)

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!

Serving type: bottle

02-02-2012 22:57:06 | More by Sammy
Photo of Phyl21ca
Phyl21ca

Quebec (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

03-06-2013 18:34:50 | More by Phyl21ca
Photo of biegaman
biegaman

Ontario (Canada)

3.65/5  rDev +2.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

05-17-2012 23:21:56 | More by biegaman
Photo of liamt07
liamt07

Ontario (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

02-28-2012 04:23:59 | More by liamt07
Photo of TheSevenDuffs
TheSevenDuffs

Ontario (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

02-05-2012 01:48:59 | More by TheSevenDuffs
Photo of spinrsx
spinrsx

Ontario (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

02-01-2012 16:58:10 | More by spinrsx
Photo of andrenaline
andrenaline

Ontario (Canada)

3.55/5  rDev 0%
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.

Serving type: bottle

04-23-2012 02:48:35 | More by andrenaline
Photo of Molson2000
Molson2000

Ontario (Canada)

4.75/5  rDev +33.8%

09-11-2012 00:12:05 | More by Molson2000
Photo of jrenihan
jrenihan

Ontario (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

02-01-2012 01:55:51 | More by jrenihan
Photo of peensteen
peensteen

Ontario (Canada)

3.68/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ruby colour, one finger of cream coloured head, light lace on the glass. Smell is malty and fruity, big molasses scents, caramel and toffee, sweet bready notes, subtle fir and spruce. Taste is full of molasses and malt, fresh earthy notes, spruce, spices, floral flavours with a bready caramel finish. Med-high carbonation, medium body, decent weight and pretty good feel. Interesting stuff that grew on me as it warmed, not my cup of tea but a solid brew anyway.

Serving type: bottle

02-11-2012 18:20:36 | More by peensteen
Photo of DaPan
DaPan

Ontario (Canada)

4.4/5  rDev +23.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours an incredibly deep ruby color with thin head that dissipates quickly.

Burnt caramel, maple syrup and evergreen in the background greets the nose. Not as "foresty" as expected. Something almost medicinal?

Quite bitter from the spruce, although not unpleasant at all. Certainly a different kind of bitter than hops provide. Deep roasted caramel in the background and wonderfully smooth mouthfeel.

After taste reminds of fresh cut Christmas tree, or boughs of fir used for holiday decor. Probably best enjoyed in front of a winter fire while decorating the tree.

Would definitely pick up some more.

Serving type: bottle

02-04-2012 22:02:39 | More by DaPan
Photo of joemcgrath27
joemcgrath27

Alberta (Canada)

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

Serving type: bottle

06-09-2012 03:20:36 | More by joemcgrath27
Photo of CAMRAhardliner
CAMRAhardliner

Ontario (Canada)

3.25/5  rDev -8.5%
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.

Serving type: bottle

05-01-2012 00:48:00 | More by CAMRAhardliner
Photo of hopsolutely
hopsolutely

Ontario (Canada)

3.58/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a beautiful mahogany colour with decent cream coloured head, ample lacing and a creamy mouthfeel.

Earthy aroma of roasted dark malts, with less "conifer" than I'd expected. Flavour is that of a malt-forward pleasant dark beer, focused on roasted notes with a hint of chocolate. The spruce elements are definitely present, lingering for a very long time in the finish...

Not enough spruce to have the "wow" factor of some other examples, but more than I'd choose as a regular beer. In short glad to have tried it, but think one will be sufficient!

Serving type: bottle

02-04-2012 02:04:21 | More by hopsolutely
Photo of SebD
SebD

Ontario (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

04-10-2012 19:17:05 | More by SebD
Photo of kjyost
kjyost

Manitoba (Canada)

4.13/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

500 ml bottle poured into tulip around 5C. Thanks BBrianBoogie!

A: Clear, though difficult to see through as it is a dark ruby red. Light tan head that disappears over time and leaves little to no lacing.
S: Syrupy nose with an alcoholic kick. A dank earthiness underlies it.
T: Fruity notes play with an obvious pineyness with a lingering lightly earthy bitterness. Some alcohol warms the tongue. Dried fruit and burnt sugar come across the palate at different times.
M: Initially a touch thin in the body, but it builds in strength over time.
O: A case of the whole being better than the sum of its parts. A solid sipper that would have been best suited to a cool damp evening.

Serving type: bottle

06-26-2011 02:43:42 | More by kjyost
Photo of JohnnyBarman
JohnnyBarman

Ontario (Canada)

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!

Serving type: bottle

03-03-2012 23:59:47 | More by JohnnyBarman
Photo of thehyperduck
thehyperduck

Ontario (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

02-07-2012 23:44:49 | More by thehyperduck
Photo of beerhunter13
beerhunter13

Ontario (Canada)

2/5  rDev -43.7%

05-14-2012 00:41:02 | More by beerhunter13
Photo of korguy123
korguy123

Ontario (Canada)

3.18/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A- Super dark ruby red almost purple pour with a finger width of light tan short lived head. Lacing is decent.

S- Well where to start? It smells like a forest. I don't think I can distinguish the difference between a spruce and a fir but they both smell very "Tree-ey" I do get the molasses and stone fruits. There is a slight honey aroma as well.

T- Right off the bat you get spruce tree goodness. It's very interesting. I can taste the molasses and there is a strange perfume taste/aftertaste. I keep burping spruce tastes... I'm not overly happy with this. It's not offensive but it's not great.

M- Medium bodied, good carbonation and slightly sticky on the lips.

O- Well what can I say that everyone is probably thinking "Spruce in beer?!" Yeah I appreciate that this beer was a way of life ages ago, and it's also North America's oldest beer style but it's not my cup o tea (or beer) Like the ancient ales from Dogfish Head; This deserves a try and an unbiased opinion and mine is that I will probably not partake in a spruce beer again.

Kudos to Garrison for going for it!

Serving type: bottle

02-16-2012 01:43:08 | More by korguy123
Photo of cam477
cam477

Newfoundland (Canada)

3.75/5  rDev +5.6%

02-13-2014 02:07:13 | More by cam477
Photo of funkengruven
funkengruven

Ontario (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

02-17-2012 22:44:21 | More by funkengruven
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CurtisD

New Brunswick (Canada)

3.25/5  rDev -8.5%

01-18-2013 02:57:39 | More by CurtisD
Photo of Long813
Long813

Ontario (Canada)

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.

Serving type: bottle

01-06-2012 03:53:13 | More by Long813
Photo of lgmol
lgmol

Nova Scotia (Canada)

3.75/5  rDev +5.6%

12-19-2013 15:17:29 | More by lgmol
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Spruce Beer from Garrison Brewing Company
81 out of 100 based on 44 ratings.