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

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
201 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce AlePoor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale

Brewed by:
Yards Brewing Co.
Pennsylvania, United States

Style: Herbed / Spiced Beer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.00%

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.

Added by NeroFiddled on 01-05-2003

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 201 | Ratings: 566
Photo of jcdiflorio
2.97/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

served into a nonic glass from a cool looking colbat blue bottle long neck with crimped cap

Hazy,reddish brown,creamy off white head with good retention and spotty lacing.

Aroma was very sprucey,notes of licorice and molasses,some pine,no hop or malt aromas.A good spicey aroma nice and pleasing.

Very sprucy tastes,tart,licorice no real hop or malt tastes,mostly spruce.Finishes on the dry side,some slightly sharp bitterness with a lingering spruce taste. Reminds me a bit of Anchor Christmas.

Medium mouthfeel,creamy a very light feel to it.
The spruce was a bit much as far as drinkability goes,lacks complexity,won't want to drink another. Not terrible, just nothing to excite.

 695 characters

Photo of Duder13
2.11/5  rDev -41.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12 oz. bottle, no brew date, concerned about when this was actually made

A - weak in color for a dark ale, no head, very little carbination

S - smokey, the spruce is overbearing

T - harsh and unbalanced

M - thin, watery, flat

would not try again, not a good choice.

 280 characters

Photo of unclecrappy
3.85/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Gingerbread? Yep.

I picked up a single bottle at 3 Sons in Pittsburgh. I've sampled a spruce/pine beer before, and was expecting the same kind of piney, sharp bitterness. I got something completely unique instead.

Pours a very dark red. Small head, some lacing.

A whiff from my glass was the first clue that this was different: a little sweet, bready, with just a hint of the spruce I was looking for.

The first taste was ... gingerbread. Sweeter than I expected, but it doesn't dominate. The spruce essence does a nice job of providing balance. And as I read on the completely cool blue bottle, the gingerbread comes from molasses used when it's brewed. It's weird ... but it works.

Mouthfeel was nice, almost creamy. Drinkability? More than a couple at a time could become a little cloying, but as an occasional curve ball, this works very well.

 862 characters

Photo of Beerquester
4.3/5  rDev +18.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I tried this beer served on tap after the brewery tour, which by the way was a very good tour and well worth the visit.

These guys really did a good job in pulling this one off!

An unmistakable spruce pervades the aroma which smoothly transitions into a molasses-tasting full-bodied beer. This transition was necessary I believe to offset any lingering spruce which may otherwise have given a mediciney taste to the beer. A pleasantly smooth finish.

I could easily enjoy a few pints of this beer, made with organic spruce trips from a local farm, though of course, I would rank it more in the novelty or historical beer category.

A fine accomplishment on this style of beer. After trying this beer I am convinced of trying to brew one myself.

 759 characters

Photo of jwc215
3.82/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a mirky ruby brown with a thin head that soon becomes a thin wispy patch. It leaves some tracings of lacing.

The smell is of woody spruce and molasses.

Woody spruce is offset by a molasses backbone. The spruce dominates, but just enough molasses holds it in check so that it does not become overwhelming. It has a medium body. It has an herbal, sappy, almost medicinal finish.

The body holds up well. There is a slight rawness to it while keeping a relative smoothness.

It's an interesting brew, and pretty good for what it is. But, one is enough before it becomes too much. A good one to try for a historical replication. It is what it should be. But, still in all, you really have to be in the mood for spruce and molasses (which normally I'm not). It's easier to drink than other historical beers I've had. Worth trying for the experience.

 860 characters

Photo of edskirk3
4.01/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Back in July I was taking the Yards Brewery tour and our guide said of Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale, "we can't make it fast enough." It must be pretty popular, I thought. I was hoping to buy a case while I was there, but they didn't have any. I really wanted to try it. And last weekend I happened upon a case at my local beer distributor, much to my glee.

This is the beer that Yards was officially commissioned to brew by the City of Philadelphia in honor of Ben Franklin's 300th birthday (this past January 17). It's based, apparently, on Franklin's actual recipe which featured molasses and spruce. The spruce thing intrigued me, as I've never had tasted anything before with any kind of evergreen in it.

The bottles are blue glass, 12 oz each, filled June 15. Pouring into an English faceted pub mug, I see a dark brown (nearly ruby black in low light) beer with a creamy head of sandy beige.Taking a deep whiff, I can confirm the presence of spruce essence. Not as strong as a car air freshener, but it's there. There's also some bready notes.You get a big dose of bread upon the first taste. It's altogether a smooth, creamy ale with a heavy emphasis on malt and molasses. There's a tiny bit of bitterness from the spruce, which is used here instead of hops.

Based on what I've read, this does feel like an authentic Colonial-era ale. It's dark, malty, a little bit sweet, and I can see myself having a glass of it along with some artisan bread for breakfast.

 1,480 characters

Photo of techdiver
3.78/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep clear mahogany out of a blue bottle. Faint herbal smell along with hint of evergreen. Unusual taste that is hard to compare to anything else I've tasted. Edgy finish rolls over to a smooth and balanced end. A novel brew, but don't think I'd consider it a session brew.

 281 characters

Photo of kenito799
4.25/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served from cask from the beer engine at Dawson's, an outstanding small beer bar in the far reaches of Roxborough/Wissahickon, Philadelphia-on-Schuylkill, PA.

I had tasted this at the Yard's brewery the day before from a keg, and found a pleasing spruce aroma upfront, but it backed off in the mouth, leaving a really nice balanced ale.

A full pint from the beer engine produced a dark dark amber brew with a huge creamy head. Mouthfeel amazingly creamy, casks really augment the Yards brews (and maybe all beers). The spruce aroma was barely detectable at first but came across on tasting as a well-integrated and very enjoyable component to a very balanced and drinkable ale, surprisingly so. Rather than overwhelming, the spruce finish felt like I was standing in a forest or at least in my grandmother's living room with the heat from huge 1950s electric lights releasing vapors from the Christmas tree into the air (threatening to burst into flames). Highly enjoyable and worth several pints.

 1,004 characters

Photo of DarkerTheBetter
4.15/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer pours a dark but clear cola color that takes on a cherry glow when held to the light. The head consists of an irregular film and a narrow collar.

Smells of oatmeal and sweet cornbread with a huge, sweet and smooth smelling pine (spruce?) with a bit of lime.

Tastes predominantly of a blend of the sweet spruce and lime rind bitterness with a slight, watered down molasses behind it.

The mouth feel is light to medium bodied with an easy mini-carbonation.

This is a really tasty beer, but it’s so sweet and flavorful, I’m not sure I could drink too many of these. I’d say two’s my limit.

 612 characters

Photo of SixpointJMH
4.47/5  rDev +23.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I wasn't expected much as I was a bit underwhelmed by the original Yards Ales of the Revolution when I sampled them a few years back, but I really dug this brew.

It pours a nice murky ruby colour with a medium sized head that leaves its fair share of residue on the glass.

The aroma is sweet, with hints of molasses and spruce for sure. There's a definite forest-like aspect to the aroma of this one. It's simple but very nice and effective overall.

The taste is more of the same, but better. It's woody and sweet and brings out both the molasses and spruce even moreso that the aroma and balances them quite nicely overall. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and a bit oily and chewy at times.

Again, this is a very nice beer. Not only is it the best of the series from Yards, it probably the best of the "Historical" brews that have been popping up here and there from various breweries in recent years. Definitely worth picking up a bottle or more if you see it.

 969 characters

Photo of GCBrewingCo
3.43/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The beer poured into the glass very slightly hazy medium amber with a tannish low head which lasted well enough to lace the glass.

The aroma was malty with a spicy cinnamon character when it first hits the nasal passages. After a few seconds of inhaling the aroma become more of a spruce with a strong menthol presentation. Coupled with that was a caramel with a notable bready aromatic.

The flavor was bready with a lightly toasty character. A caramel maltiness was present and a spruce tip flavor that still came across with a strong menthol impression. The menthol was even a bit harsh on the palate. The light cinnamon spice that was present in the aroma was also around in the flavor.

The finish was dry with a somewhat harsh and then fading spruce and menthol into the aftertaste. The body was medium and the carbonation was on the low side. An interesting beer, but not one I would want to have again.

12 ounce blue bottle. Thanks BeerBeing!

 960 characters

Photo of Metalmonk
4.12/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The anticipation is high for this. A friend in Philadelphia talked it up favorably, though he didn't realize it was being bottled. He'd only had it at Yards'. Since visiting Yards wasn't possible at the time, we were super-surprised and glad to find this at the Foodery (Philly beer store), in a bottle. A blue bottle, no less. Here goes...

Pours an off-white soapy head that doesn't last long, but remains a skim over top the entire session. The color is beautiful, a glistening ruby-brown, reminds of how many barley wines are colored.

Aroma is earthy evergreen and completely natural-smelling. Spruce is in there but well balanced against a more syrupy aroma. A fresh, organic, of-the-soil sort of scent.

Like the aroma, you get plenty of spruce in the flavor, taking the form of a tangy hops--earthy and piney and bitter (but not overly so). Molasses adds a sweet malt-type balance, and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg are present. The finish is a little odd though. Understandable considering this isn't made with your typical ingredients, but it would've been that much better without the sticky, grassy aftertaste.

Really good, quite different, very enjoyable, a must for anyone looking for unique and unusual beers of high quality.

 1,249 characters

Photo of BCMan
3.18/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I was really looking forward to this beer when it was selected for my beer club. The Advocate that selected it fully expected to not like it but is a sucker for limited release brews especially one from the local brewery.

I hadn't noticed the blue glass bottle until I cracked open this evening. Definetly raises the fun factor to the presentation. I don't know the significance of the blue but I like it. The label frames the grand pimp of Philadelphia, Ben Franklin.

The grew poored up a murky brown color with a hint of ruby when it hits the light. Not real active out of the bottle which surprised me for some reason. A thin layer of foam lingered throughout the duration of the glass. The nose is spicy and is an introduction to the spicy flavor. Most of the flavor builds with the after taste which I think made it better.

I'm glad I weas able to try this beer and am surprised how much I liked it. I must admit I was on my friends side thinking it would be bad. I couldn't drink several of these but might have one or two in a sitting.

Worth a try.

 1,067 characters

Photo of Phatz
3.38/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This was a very unique beer and I am glad for the opportunity to have tried it but it is a little too intense for me. Maybe the on-tap version is not so wild but I had this in the bottle yesterday and I can still taste the tree bark. WOW!

Presentation: A very unique blue glass bottle with Franklin on it. I should have snatched up the bottle to get a picture of it. I have never seen a bottle quite like it.

Appearance: Pours a dark brown color but partly translucent. Decent tan head.

Smell: Overwhelmingly spicy spruce. This isn't called "Spruce Ale" for not.

Taste: I enjoy tasting something this crazy wild but I have a hard time rating it. What to compare it to boggles me. It reminds me of when my uncle used to take me and my cousins on walks through the woods. He would pull off pieces of various tree bark and say smell that or break of a twig and say chew on that it is... I always thought he was crazy chewing on tree. (Birch is pretty good) This was like chewing on a spruce tree and getting a mouthful of needles. It was not a bad taste but I don't know that I would drink it very often.

Mouthfeel: For as big as the aroma and taste were I was expecting a bigger body. It was a bit thin and light weight but creamy and decent.

Drinkability: What to say, what to say. I enjoyed the little bit I had but even one 12oz may be a bit cloyingly spruce, but what style is this to compare it too? I recommend you give it a shot yourself and see what you think. Be prepared, it is unique.

Hope this is helpful.

 1,548 characters

Photo of stingo
4.14/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A unique beer, made from a recipe known to Benjamin Franklin. Pours a nice brownish-ruby red with a pale white-tan head. The head dissipates to a dusting in the pint, with some lacing. There seems to be very little nose on it, though - so I may have to revisit this later after living with the beer for a while. Taste and mouthfeel are truly delightful - nice roasty,well rounded malt flavor - hints of chocolate, spruce and a delicate bitterness rounding the finish. The beer has a nice 4.5% abv so could easily become a favored session brew for me. (Yes, you get the flavor of a good spiced beer, but a lot less of the guilt/abv - can you say winner?) I have to admit that I was skeptical at first, but I think Yards has produced a real winner with this brew - well worth seeking out and tasting. I'll definitely be having this the next time I'm at the City Tavern. As a side note, Yards' other Ales of the Revolution (Thomas Jefferson Ale, George Washington Porter) are quite tasty too, so drink a bit of history today!

 1,022 characters

Photo of HugoGrim
4.03/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on tap in a goblet at the City Tavern in Philadelphia. Color is a dark ruby/black with a bit of light peeking through. No head by the time it reached me, but some decent lacing.

Aroma is predominantly spicy and woody with hints of leather. Also some fruits.

Deep, rich, spicy flavor. Very Earthy and woody. Rustic. Elements of dark fruits. Smokey finish.

 367 characters

Photo of whartontallboy
3.7/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Comes in a deep brown, almost black pint with a good-sized tan head that held pretty well and left some lace.

Aroma is spruce and pine, a sticky-sweet maltiness, and a bit of bitterness.

Flavor is not quite like anything else I've ever tasted. Spruce needles, dark chocolate, cherries, sweet malts, licorice, and a bit of phenolic flavors blend together to make it really interesting. Mouthfeel is fairly creamy and medium-bodied.

Overall: A very unique taste, and not something you'd want more than one pint of. But for what it is, it's quite interesting and worth a try.

 582 characters

Photo of dawg
4.26/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the tap into a pint glass with little head. Light could peek through the deep amber body.

The aroma was a tight balance of spruce, spices, and hops.

Mouthfeel was alright but nothing to write home about. The lack of head was a drag and I couldn't get anything special from the feel.

Tasted awesome. Like the scent there was a good balance between the needles, hops, malts, and I was stunned by a subtle citrus orange zest poking through with the finish.

Liked it enough to have a second. Probably could have had more.

 545 characters

Photo of ggaughan
4.02/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at the Grey Lodge. The beer pours a very deep, dark brown color with a nice thick white head.

The aroma of the beer is very complex with definite tones of the spruce in it and spicy notes.

The taste is a nice roasted malt base with definite taste from the spruce. it is an odd ingredient to have but I really enjoyed it and would like to try it again. The beer is pretty drinkable but I think I could only have a few in a night. Maybe get a bottle or 2 to keep for awhile. Thanks to Ben Franklin.

 510 characters

Photo of BitterBrian
3.37/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Obtained from the brewery, served from a blue bottle with a Yard's Sticker on it.

Pour - a deep garnet/brown with an off-white head about 1 inch thick. Head disappears into a frothy ring within minutes.

Smell - Smells like a brown sugar and nutmeg. when you really stick your nose into it you can pick out the pine but it is heavily masked by the molasses.

Taste - I'll start by saying I doubted that I'd like this beer. I was right. It's a great historical reference (based on Ben's recipe), but not something I would drink today. Tastes like a badly made herbed Christmas ale, probably because it lacks the malt backend.

Finish - It feels like I just sprayed pine-sol into my mouth. I need to keep drinking it so I don't taste the finish.

If I was alive 250 years ago, I would undoubtebly enjoy this. As I drink it, I can definitely see myself getting used to the taste.

Kudos to Yard's for bringing this beer back to life from Ben's Recipe and for giving me the chance to taste the past.

 1,009 characters

Photo of brentk56
3.37/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Arrives at the bar with a cloudy dark amber body, small head and no lacing

Smell: Herbal aroma from the spruce and molasses

Taste: Overwhelming herbacious taste; somewhat medicinal

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Interesting brew, but not my cup of tea; just a little too over the edge; I much prefered the Poor Richard's from Olde Hickory in North Carolina

 414 characters

Photo of Foxman
3.88/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It came to me a deep ruby, close to brown through the center, with a finger of off-white head that soon settled to patches of froth. Bubbly lacing graced the inside of the glass.

The aroma wafted rapidly dispersed drafts of berry fruit and mulling spice, along with the merest hint of evergreen.

Upon tasting, there was a push of well-toasted malt: earthy, sweet, and bragging of a forest of berries. Nutmeg and cinnamon punctuated an autumnal spice character, and the sweet nature was enhanced by the grounded presence of molasses. The finish dried promptly to a mildly herbaceous tingle. It was very interesting, and it was suprisingly pleasantly blended.

Pretty much light bodied, it leaves an herbal and sweet legacy for a comfy spell.

I was intrigued, and happy to try it, even though my only exposure to real coniferous infusion has been OSA, but I like that a lot, so I had to give it a go. I was pleased, as it had a well-blended, rounded set of elements, as opposed to any one that jumps out and kicks you in the shins. Its toasty, roasty, piney and fine. The aroma thinned out a lot more rapidly than I expected, but that really was the onnly thing that I felt came up remotely short. It's a sassy style, and this one is just that as well. It goes down easily, especially with a chill in the air. I see a re-visit in the near future.

 1,359 characters

Photo of blitheringidiot
3.38/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured a garnet hue into a generous wine glass topped with a frothy skirt of settled broken scattered head cap. Lace scattered bubbles form.

Aroma: Slight raspberry berries and bundt cake. [inside the City Tavern the whole place smells like cinamon anywho.]

FS: Voracious frisky spicy toasted malts. Nutmeg. Dry slight red wine vinous finish. Slight root beer middle. Earthy minerally with some leafy herbal notes of sage and cranberry.

Feel is a rather thin body, despte the dark appearance.

Drinkability: Well...curiosity slaked! Vindi, vici....A spicy brown yeah! No ABV detection.

Beer is good. Happy beering.

 628 characters

Photo of NoLiberty
4.14/5  rDev +14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Beer pours from a hand-labeled BLUE bottle in a plastic Dixie cup, the sole receptacle around.
Appearance is nice, but not exceptional. Head retains as low lacing and color is almost identical to a good root beer.
The aroma is of coffee, cola and of course spruce tree. So I've been told it was brewed with an entire spruce tree.
Taste is similar and fully enhanced by the aroma. Full flavord and spicy, sweet and bitter, like a good winter ale with thoughts of coriander and cumin. Somewhat clean hop finish.
Hard to tell true carbonation character in the plastic cup but my little cup says good full body.
Would definitely drink again if I have a chance to find.

 672 characters

Photo of GeoffFromSJ
4.2/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had the pleasure of having this on Yard's night at the Grey Lodge. Made to celebrate the 300th birthday of Ben Franklin. Traditional? I have no idea. But happy birthday.

Made with spruce wood tips and molases. You can taste both, and they combine very well. It reminds me of something I can't put my finger on and it is bothering me that I can't pinpoint it. Maybe it's another beer. But it's not reminding me of spruce and molases b/c how many times do you have that?

Color was quite nice. Not quite amber, not gold. But on the darker end of the spectrum while not black.

Too busy noticing the intriguing taste to take much notice of the mouthfeel.

 658 characters

Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale from Yards Brewing Co.
3.63 out of 5 based on 566 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!