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Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale - Yards Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce AlePoor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

451 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 451
Reviews: 189
rAvg: 3.57
pDev: 17.65%
Wants: 18
Gots: 29 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Yards Brewing Co. visit their website
Pennsylvania, United States

Style | ABV
Herbed / Spiced Beer |  5.00% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
Based on Franklin’s original recipe, which called for barley, molasses, and essence of spruce, our Tavern Spruce is as approachable and engaging as was the man himself. We source blue spruce clippings from a local organic farmer, steeping them in the kettle to create this one-of-a-kind deep amber ale.

(Beer added by: GeoffFromSJ on 11-12-2005)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 451 | Reviews: 189 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of jasonjlewis
2.65/5  rDev -25.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a nice 2 finger head with a cloudy brown color. Head dissipates half way down the glass.

Smell is of toasted caramel malts, spruce, and molasses.

Taste was pretty bad to start off with and got better as the beer warmed. It has an off flavor and some tannic acid I think. Some undesirable flavors mask the toasty caramel maltiness. The spruce is a little too strong and it overpowers the sweetness of the malts and molasses. I don't really liek this beer.

Weak and watery mouthfeel.

Not a beer that I will try again. I appreciate the sample though, whoever it was from.

jasonjlewis, Mar 03, 2008
Photo of Kreuger
3.68/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served from a 12 oz. blue bottle.

A - Pours out a rich looking, slightly cloudy, brown ale. It starts with a moderate head but it dissipates down to a thin lace pretty quickly. There is slight visible carbonation.

S - There's a very satisfying and appropriate sprucey nose and its strongly supported by a powerful molasses presence; but there is also a metallic note that plays a bit too often through out the life of this beer, and shows up seemingly at random.

T - There isn't much hop representation here, its bite comes almost exclusively from the spruce. But there is a very strong character of the molasses that its brewed with, and the molasses are a lovely malt substitute. I'd look forward to more beers made with molasses. It adds a luxuriant smoky sweetness to the flavor a pleasant lingering aftertaste.

M - The mouthfeel is good. its not overly bulky or malty nor is it astringent. The moderate abv ride very comfortable below the spruce bite.

D - The primary drawback, as other reviewers have observed, is how strong a flavor it is. It can get overpowering.

Spruce is an acquired taste to be sure, and not one that everyone will like. It makes this a very difficult beer to pair with food. The wrong food and suddenly its a mixture of dirt and garden hose instead of molasses and spruce, but the right sharp cheese and you might just be in heaven.

I'd buy it again, and share it liberally. I think its a growth experience every beer connoisseur should have at least once.

Kreuger, Feb 25, 2008
Photo of deapokid
3.33/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Unbelievably thick lace coats the rim as a heap of rich molasses and heavy carbonation fill the glass.
A forest-y aroma with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg permeates leading up to the first taste, which is reminiscent of Christmas trees and fresh peaches.
This interesting ale pours over the tongue lightly and is quite refreshing, with a taste reminiscent of a winter warmer tinged with a variety of spices like mint and maple syrup. Was really off-putting at first, but grew on me overtime and is quite an original little number.

deapokid, Feb 21, 2008
Photo of splat215
3.45/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This beer is.... surprisingly drinkable. Now normally when I approach a beer, I don't expect it to smell like a christmas tree farm - but this one does. Which is not necessarily a bad thing - just ... a bit off.

Once you get past the smell of pine tree beer, the taste on this one's fairly decent. The taste is spruce, spruce, and spruce, but fairly subtle and doesn't knock your taste-buds off. Nice mild carbonation, good mouthfeel, goes down pretty easily.

And yes, the bottle is very cool.

splat215, Feb 02, 2008
Photo of Biscuit033
4.2/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Dark amber almost brown delivered with minimal head. There was little retention and spotty lacing.

S: Molasses, mint, pine, and some mulling spices.

T: Molasses and brown sugar taste and sweetness is balanced superbly by the spruce, earthy, and spices. I am amazed by how this type of beer is so well balanced and easy drinking.

M: Creamy but with some slight oiliness. The flavors linger on but the spruce almost cleanses the palate.

D: Surprisingly quaffable. This is something that I would consider for a long day of drinking in the winter.

Biscuit033, Jan 23, 2008
Photo of yourefragile
3.45/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz blue bottle poured into a pint glass

A: A deep cloudy amber that is very dark in the middle and gets much lighter near the edges. A thin off white head that quickly dissipates to a ring of rather large bubbles very little splotchy lacing. Looks vaguely unbeer like.
S: Pretty strong unique nose of honey, molasses, brown sugar, spruce, some other spices like cinnamon. Potpourri comes to mind.
T: Not quite as sprucey or "christmas-tree like" as expected from description and smell. Certainly a strong spruce taste, but a little sweetness tasting like molasses or brown sugar. Slight bitterness in finish, but generally sweet.
M: Light carbonation and medium body, leaves a peculiar aftertaste, slightly oily not entirely pleasant
D: Better than expected, I really don't like beers that end up tasting like water from a christmas tree (if that makes any sense) and I expected that from this but that wasn't the case. Despite the low abv, not particularly drinkable. I would not be able to enjoy more than one in a sitting.

yourefragile, Jan 15, 2008
Photo of letsgopens
3.18/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

This interesting selection pours a rusty brown with some ruby highlights. Well you don't see a cobalt blue colored bottle like that every day. I wonder why they went with that material? The average size off-white head recedes fairly quickly and leaves a thin ring of modest lace. Lots of larger rising bubbles stick to the inside of the glass but eventually dissipate.

Very spicy with a distinct spruce character. Smells like a holiday wreath with some caramel malt sprinkled about. Certainly unique. Cinnamon and nutmeg are prevalent along with some pepper and light citrus. Very floral, not hoppy floral, but potpourri floral. The sizable sweetness really ties this beer together and makes it more appetizing. If not for the caramel malt and spice, the aroma may closely resemble a Christmas scented candle. Nice though; very interesting.

Wow, it’s certainly... sprucey. Tons of molasses, cinnamon and some sweet caramel malt. Initially all you can detect is that super floral, potpourri/spruce needle flavor but it does fade to a more palatable and appetizing sweetness. The finish brings to mind buckwheat hotcakes with molasses and cinnamon. A slightly buttery character is floating around as well along with nutmeg.

With a medium body and moderate carbonation, this brew has a smooth mouthfeel but remains crisp. The lower abv might suggest that it would be reasonably sessionable but I can't see myself drinking more than one in a single sitting. Worth a try, but not necessarily something I'd purchase again. Almost a novelty beer in my eyes; a fun brew to experience but not a great drinker.

letsgopens, Jan 14, 2008
Photo of Jerzdevil1116
3.5/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Had this beer on tap at the Grey Lodge Pub in Philadelphia, PA.

Appearance: Cloudy, Deep Reddish Brown. Little to no head.

Smell: Smelt sweet like Molasses. Also piney.

Taste: Like it smells, it tasted sweet like molasses or brown sugar. It also had a very distinct pineyness like a christmas tree.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied. Not much carbonation.

Drinkability: Very unique. Could drink one or two in a sitting. Would be very festive to have around Christmas time.

Jerzdevil1116, Jan 11, 2008
Photo of RblWthACoz
3.6/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

First off, I love the glass. I wish it was used more. The earthy and leafy profile on this beer and a minor caramel like sweet tone make it a really nice one to sip on. After a while it seems to lose its interesting edge, but I still think it is pleasant. Kind of a slick mouthfeel and a very low carbonation. This started out well and kind of dropped off at the end. Still a decent beer though.

RblWthACoz, Jan 01, 2008
Photo of orangedive
2.95/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A - Dark, dark maroon on its way to brown. Small head diminished quickly.

S - Smells of pine and molasses. Very earthy, malty and sweet. Strong. Nothing terribly subtle but that's okay.

T - Slightly bitter. Not as much sweetness as I anticipatred. Definitely piney, earthy. Having trouble locating any hops.

M - A little thin and watery. Leaves a feeling of grit in my mouth. Almost like after eating hard candy. This isn't to say it's awful--just not great.

D - It's going down pretty easy, but I won't have more than one.

Overall, I'm a little disappointed.

orangedive, Nov 24, 2007
Photo of JamesS
3.38/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice dark copper color with a great head and nice lacing. For some reason there was a little sediment that I wasn't excepting, but nothing bad. Nice scent, a light malty smell with a small spruce hint, but nothing big in the herbed area. Nice taste! A great mix of flavors from the sweetness to the nice light, but very much there, spruciness. Goes down easily with just a bit of roughness. Great recipe.

JamesS, Nov 12, 2007
Photo of woodychandler
4.28/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Originally reviewed on-tap on 10-31-2007

This arrived with a thick, off-white/medium tan head with decent retention. The color was a deep amber with reddish highlights. The nose was not-quite redolent with with a pine/spruce scent. I say that because I had some of the early batches that were like Pine-Sol in a glass. This was a bit more subdued, but still notable. The mouthfeel was somewhere between medium and full with a great minty presence on the tongue. The finish was very clean and refreshing with a lingering taste of pine. It was not as intense as my first exposure to it, which was a shame. However, it was not a detractor. Rock On, Yards!

From a bottle on 06-09-2013:

I picked this up at The Foodery (N. Liberties) as I thought it the only one of the Yards Ales of the Revolution that I had not previously reviewed. Whoops!

From the bottle: "Crafted following Ben Franklin's original recipe."; "Malt beverage brewed with natural flavors (molasses, spruce tips and sprigs.); "Revolutionary Times Call for Revolutionary Ales. Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce (TM) is based on Franklin's original recipe. Enjoy a taste of history courtesy of Yards Brewing Company."

Someone must have read my original review because as soon as I popped the cap, the room smelled like Pine-Sol! My initial pour created a finger of fizzy tawny head with limited retention, quickly falling to wisps. Color was a deep copper with NE-quality clarity. Leaning in, it smelled like a freshly cut Christmas tree. Yes! Mouthfeel was medium and on this iteration, not only did I get that fresh mintiness, but I could also perceive the molasses on the tongue. Is my palate becoming more sensitive or did they tweak the recipe in the last six years? Finish was semi-dry with the commingled flavors of pine and molasses really lingering well after the swallow.

woodychandler, Oct 31, 2007
Photo of barleywinebrewer
3.35/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

what better way to showcase a novelty brew than with a blue bottle. I finally decided that it was time to try this brew which came my way courtesy of beerbeing.

A - brackish brown color with modest off-white head.
S - yup, that's pine trees and sweet malts / brown sugar.
T - as a fan of winter spiced ales this one is definitely at the edges of that realm. It takes a few sips to warm up and your taste buds to aclimate. Once there it's a nice blending of molasses / brown sugar and piney notes.
M - light bodied, mildly carbonated, creamy smooth with a slight lingering aftertaste
D - not a brew to encourage session drinking. I would see this as more of a evening winter drink after dinner.

barleywinebrewer, Sep 04, 2007
Photo of Zorro
3.7/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Sampled through 1000 Miles (or East/West again) BIF and BeerBeing.

A curious looking beer you just don't see blue glass bottles used very much.

A much darker beer than I expected this is a medium brown clear beer with a good light brown head. Looks wise this could pass for a brown ale.

The smell is a little sweet and spicy with a fairly strong spruce aroma. A malty ale this has quite a bit of caramel and toasted grain aroma. This is a little candy like in the scent probably from the molasses used. I have had Spruce flavored soda before and this is a little like that.

The taste begins a little sweet and earthy with a good taste of spruce, a little spicy but not overly spiced. Vanilla, spruce and mushroom earthiness are the main flavors here. At first this seems like a thin ale but after a while the bitterness level builds and the beer becomes more substantial.

The mouthfeel seems thin side to me.

An OK beer and an historical recreation this is something I could see trying again in Philadelphia. This however is nothing I could see buying a growler of.

Zorro, Aug 04, 2007
Photo of PittBeerGirl
3.9/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Translucent dark red/medium brown body. Uniform in color. Pours with thick off-white foamy head that quickly dwindles to a collar. Leaves behind some lacing in the glass.

S- Nose is quite big and robust. Dark molasses and spices hit the nose first. With a sprucy background.

T- very woody taste. Begins with a balance of spruce and molasses. Then the Spruce comes foreward and this ale begins to taste like what a Christmas tree smells like. Finish is very clean. Hints of sweet molasses linger.

M- Medium carbonation and lightly syrupy body.

D- Can't really compare this beer to others in its style because this is truely a unique beer. Great history behind it and a decent brew overall. I will probably pick it up again. This is definately worth a try.

PittBeerGirl, Jul 18, 2007
Photo of biegaman
3.93/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

There's two references to various 'The Office' episodes in the title of this one - see if you can find where!!
Thanks to leftmindedrighty for this blue glass bottled spruce ale, brewed with molasses, spruce tips and sprigs. They say this is loosely based on a recipe Ben Franklin suggested for beer in his Poor Richard's Almanac. The style was popular in his days...crazy kids.
Pours with A good mocha brown head forms after a rough swirl and succeeds slowly leaving dots of lacing. A nice shine to the light, a darkened mahogany brown in colour. The aroma is pleasing, in an odd kind of way, boasting notes of chocolaty mousse and spruce with definite notes of brown sugar, ginger and molasses - neat like something that should be baked! The mouthfeel could use a little texture beyond the dryness of the spruce, really chokes the mouth, but it does yield a world of flavour. A lot of spruce with hints of nuts (hazelnut, walnut) and malts. I really like this as an alternative to other styles, there is a lot that can be done with this style. I hope to see Spruce beers catch on a little more, I could see brewers doing interesting things with it...

biegaman, May 18, 2007
Photo of dherling
3.8/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured out a mahogony brown with a creamy thick off white head, average lacing. The nose is fresh, winter forest, pine, cleaner, spicy, with a bit of malt character providing backbone. The taste is more like a brown ale with cinnamon, but it is really spruce, evergeen, piney, actually fairly refreshing and well complemented. Has a distinct ginger note, almost like ginger-beer. Has a light body and light carbonation. Fairly drinkable, but you have to be into the flavor. A nice and well executed variation.

dherling, Mar 14, 2007
Photo of TheDeuce
2.7/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

In spite of others being available that I have heard tasted like a Christmas Tree, Poor Richard's Ale is truly the first and only beer I have had that does taste like it.

Appearance- thick head on top of a brownish green, decent lacey head, thick clouds of foam that stay.

Smell-sugary (belgian sugar?) and smell of spruce, which makes sense since they throw spruce in the actual mash. Really aromatic.

Taste-Little too much tree here, alcohol is well hidden but from an over flow of spruce and tree smell, also pine like, limited malt and hop flavor, not tough to put down but interesting aftertaste.

Drinkability-only for the spruce lovers

TheDeuce, Mar 09, 2007
Photo of IgnatiusReilly
2.68/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Poured from deep blue bottle to pint glass at home. The bottle reads that this is based on an original recipe from Ben Franklin, based more on spruce and molasses as opposed to the less readily available barley and hops. Special tavern ale from Yards Brewing – I always like a historical throwback beer.

A: Deep ruby caramel, brown. Nice thick head, the holds pretty well for the duration. Good Belgian lace.
S: Spruce scent dominates. Reminds me of a forest, or the living room during Christmas. Maybe a little toasted malt but not much.
T: A lot of spruce-taste, but even more molasses flavor. Kind of novelty at first, but not very enjoyable. Begins to feel like I’m drinking pine sap, or a lightly carbonated cream soda. Finishes dry with a very small alcohol kicker, but not much.
M: Thin to medium, syrupy body.
D: A little too much “tree”. I lost interest and didn’t finish the whole thing.

It’s a cool idea, and decent for what it is. It’s fun to try from a historical perspective, but I’ll only need to try one.

IgnatiusReilly, Mar 01, 2007
Photo of mikesgroove
1.85/5  rDev -48.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

First I wanna mention the really cool blue bottle this came in, nice touch. Poured a very dark amber with a big creamy white head. Slow fade left a thick coating of gooey lace on the glass. This looked very very nice, but looks can be decieving. Smell was how do you say, odd. Smelled like a pine tree air freshner, very dry, with hunts of flour, yeast, almost tree bark. Caramel, bread, and other sweet smells came through as it dried. The taste did not suit me well at all. Only word I could think of is huh? Tasted like a soda, very light and highly carbonated. Sugary, amost trying to be fruit like but not making it. Did have a dry finish, but I could barely get the glass down. This was one of the strangest beers I have ever drank. It was like chewing on a fresh cut xmas tree, but not in the good way.

mikesgroove, Feb 23, 2007
Photo of WVbeergeek
3.5/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Gotta love the blue bottle plus it keeps more light out than the other varieties...appears a chestnut ruby amber in body with a nice tan head leaves some even thick coats of lacing down my glass. Aroma is very pleasant with outdoorsy spruce tips, fruity toastsed malt tones with an evident maple syrup character, however I stand corrected b/c the label states it contains molasses I can definitely smell some concentrated thickened sugar. Flavor...spruce ain't no joke, kinda like drinkin' your christmas tree water, but in addition to the pine tree flow this beer offers subtle malt sweetness with the spicing coming from the tree nice flowing ale. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a lighter more moderate carbonation but the flavors stay on the palate. Drinkability is definitely one of the most interesting brews I have had in awhile I'm glad I gave it a go can't wait to try more strange colonial style brews.

WVbeergeek, Feb 08, 2007
Photo of foureyedgeek
3.73/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, courtesy of abeck1969/nk998. Thanks guys!

Pours a medium brown with a small frothy head of foam which has decent retention.

Smell is _all_ spruce, so much it kind of reminds me potpourri. Thats all I can smell, it dominates the aroma.

Taste is also of spruce, but not as much as the smell would lead you to believe. Its actually pretty tasty. The spruce is most present at the front and then the maltiness kicks in to mellow it out. Interesting. As the beer warms, more maltiness comes through.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied though on the lighter end of the range. Its a tad dry and rather crisp.

Drinkability is pretty good, this is a unique beer that I enjoyed trying. Not really a session beer, mainly because I think I'd be overwhelmed by the spruce. This would be a great beer to drink in an actual colonial tavern, like the City Tavern in Philadelphia.

foureyedgeek, Feb 04, 2007
Photo of tgbljb
4/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a very deep-reddish brown color with modest silghtly off-white creamy head.
Smell is notable for pine trees (spruce) and other herbs.
Taste is not altogether pleasant at first with a strong hop character, at the onset, giving wat to a somewhat medicinal note (herbal cough medicine??), and then again a more austere dryness.
The taste seems to improve at the beer is consumed (maybe getting used to something different) so that by the end of the glass it was enjoyable.
Finish is a bit thin, but still nice.
This beer is a one-per-sitting, and something for cooler weather.

tgbljb, Feb 04, 2007
Photo of Imstillthegman
3.88/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to BeerBeing for this bottle.

Pours a ruby brown color with a thin head that quickly fades to a ring. Lacing never really appears.

Spruce shows up in the aroma. There is some licorice, molasses, and herbs. The smell reminds me somewhat of homemade root beer. This sorta smells like the 1790 Root Beer Brew from Sam Adams. It is an intriguing smell.

Flavor follows suit. Spruce and root beer. Some sweet molasses is mixed in there, too. This one is better than the SA Root Beer Brew. I know it's a different beer with different ingredients, but they have similar qualities, IMO.

Mouthfeel is thin with little carbonation...just how I imagine it would be in colonial times. I will have no trouble in finishing this off (unlike the Brewer Patriot Collection). Different beer...if you have the chance to try it, go for it.

Imstillthegman, Jan 29, 2007
Photo of ithacabaron
4.18/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a ruddy, rich hue, confident and full. Deep and weighty in the glass.

Aroma is slightly flat, with wintergreen, horehide, water and limestone. Not offensive, but not spectacular.

Taste develops into an original and fantastic experience -- a brew apart from many others. The first thing that strikes you is molasses, and not tarry, black, overwhelming molasses, but crisp, bready, gingerbread man (with frosting!) notes. Lovely. The wintergreen note found in the aroma develops as more of a resinous, sap-like undertone to the molasses, with sweet allspice and nutmeg carrying along, barely detectable. A wonderful confection, but never cloying.

Mouthfeel is a little high, and a little sharp, but it's a Yards' bottled product -- this is pretty par for the course. This is the major flaw here. On cask, I bet this would be a pantheon-level beer.

Drinkability, even with the high carbonation, is delightfully high! This is an easy drinker, and I could see myself easily making a session of this. Unlike other brews I've had with non-standard ingredients, this is no novelty. This isn't a good spruce beer -- this is a good beer that has spruce in it. Get it?

I would buy a case (or if I had enough people to drink it, a firkin!) anytime. Three cheers for colonial-style ale!

ithacabaron, Jan 26, 2007
Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale from Yards Brewing Co.
81 out of 100 based on 451 ratings.