Spruce Beer | Garrison Brewing Company

Spruce BeerSpruce Beer
BA SCORE
43.6%
Liked This Beer
3.6 w/ 55 ratings
Spruce BeerSpruce Beer
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Garrison Brewing Company
Nova Scotia, Canada
garrisonbrewing.com

Style: Herbed / Spiced Beer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

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

Added by kjyost on 06-26-2011

BEER STATS
Ranking:
#33,684
Reviews:
32
Ratings:
55
Liked:
24
Avg:
3.6/5
pDev:
18.89%
Alströms:
0
 
 
Wants:
5
Gots:
7
Trade:
0
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 55 |  Reviews: 32
Photo of cmorrisse
1/5  rDev -72.2%

Photo of mintjellie
1.97/5  rDev -45.3%
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 beerhunter13
2/5  rDev -44.4%

Photo of MattPS
2.5/5  rDev -30.6%

Photo of heebes
2.8/5  rDev -22.2%
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 sdm9465
3/5  rDev -16.7%

Photo of wilmaster001
3/5  rDev -16.7%

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.02/5  rDev -16.1%
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 AndrewC
3.03/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.25

Photo of liamt07
3.06/5  rDev -15%
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 spinrsx
3.15/5  rDev -12.5%
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.

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Photo of korguy123
3.2/5  rDev -11.1%
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!

 1,083 characters

Photo of CurtisD
3.25/5  rDev -9.7%

Photo of CAMRAhardliner
3.28/5  rDev -8.9%
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.

 560 characters

Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.3/5  rDev -8.3%
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 jcubz
3.41/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Photo of SchoonerNS
3.41/5  rDev -5.3%

Photo of biboergosum
3.48/5  rDev -3.3%
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 DreamDeath
3.5/5  rDev -2.8%

Photo of andrenaline
3.55/5  rDev -1.4%
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.

 832 characters

Photo of souvenirs
3.58/5  rDev -0.6%
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 hopsolutely
3.58/5  rDev -0.6%
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!

 556 characters

Photo of funkengruven
3.6/5  rDev 0%
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.

 567 characters

Photo of joemcgrath27
3.62/5  rDev +0.6%
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 Long813
3.62/5  rDev +0.6%
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.

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Spruce Beer from Garrison Brewing Company
Beer rating: 43.6% out of 100 with 55 ratings
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