Spruce Beer | Garrison Brewing Company

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83
good
55 Ratings
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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
Ratings:
55
Reviews:
32
Avg:
3.62
pDev:
18.78%
 
 
Wants:
5
Gots:
6
For Trade:
0
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 55 |  Reviews: 32
Photo of beerhunter13
2/5  rDev -44.8%

Photo of CAMRAhardliner
3.28/5  rDev -9.4%
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 andrenaline
3.55/5  rDev -1.9%
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.

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Photo of mintjellie
1.97/5  rDev -45.6%
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.

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Photo of SebD
3.75/5  rDev +3.6%
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.

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Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.3/5  rDev -8.8%
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!

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Photo of heebes
2.8/5  rDev -22.7%
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.

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Photo of liamt07
3.06/5  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.

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Photo of Rijtjeshuis
3.71/5  rDev +2.5%
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.

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Photo of funkengruven
3.6/5  rDev -0.6%
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.

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Photo of korguy123
3.2/5  rDev -11.6%
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!

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Photo of WeissBoy
4/5  rDev +10.5%

Photo of MattyV
3.65/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear deep ruby/brown colour, 1 finger creamy tan head recedes to a thin cap. Aroma's full of fruity, earthy, and sweet molasses notes. The spruce and fir are detectable but play a background role in the nose. The taste is mostly sweet, fruity, and nutty flavours, but are tempered by the earthy/herbal bitterness from the spruce and hops. Slightly warming aftertaste, which also carries through some roasted malt flavour as well. Creamy and full-bodied. A nice slow sipper on the chilly evenings. I can appreciate the bit of history provided on the bottle's label. One of my more memorable ventures into the beer category.

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Photo of peensteen
3.68/5  rDev +1.7%
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.

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Photo of Kartoffeln
4/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a dark, slightly hazy ruby-amber with a sizeable tan head of bubbly foam and dense froth. Solid retention, settling to a fine ring of foam and leaving

S: Sweet, sappy spruce with a mildly resiny character and pine notes mingles with a bold, sugary scent of molasses. Rich, fruity, and somewhat toasty malts ground the nose with notes of biscuit and fresh dark fruits, particularly plums, figs, and raisins. Floral, resiny, and slightly herbal hops round things out.

T: Spruce with a pronounced resiny undertone and hints of sap and fresh pine blends into mildly sweet molasses with a slightly burnt note. A rich spicy note, mainly nutmeg, springs up midway through the sip and transitions into biscuit malt with a toasted grain character. Resiny, citric hops mingle with the spice and spruce notes in the finish.

M: Medium-bodied with modest carbonation, crisp on the sip and somewhat sticky on the swallow. The sprucey resin is rather refreshing, though, and makes for a clean, dry finish that effectively balances the robust flavour profile. The ABV is practically undetectable, and altogether it's unexpectedly easy-drinking despite the robust flavour and kick.

D: Not just a historical novelty, this is an excellent flavoured ale with complexity and a distinctly resiny character from spruce and hops. It reminds me of the Alba Scots Pine Ale from that Williams Brothers, and is at least equally worthwhile. Give it a try if you find it.

 1,455 characters

Photo of Groulxsome
4.5/5  rDev +24.3%

Photo of thehyperduck
4.13/5  rDev +14.1%
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.

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Photo of jsnoek
4/5  rDev +10.5%

Photo of Stocean1
4.02/5  rDev +11%
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.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.63/5  rDev +0.3%
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.

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Photo of DaPan
4.38/5  rDev +21%
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.

 605 characters

Photo of hopsolutely
3.58/5  rDev -1.1%
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!

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Photo of Sammy
3.9/5  rDev +7.7%
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!

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Photo of wilmaster001
3/5  rDev -17.1%

Photo of spinrsx
3.15/5  rDev -13%
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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Spruce Beer from Garrison Brewing Company
3.62 out of 5 based on 55 ratings.
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