Spruce Beer

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Spruce Beer is brewed with the tips or shoots of spruce trees, usually instead of hops.

History of Spruce Beer

The tips of spruce trees were one of many hop substitutes that were used in the colonial United States.

Brewing Spruce Beer

There are two ways to get a spruce character in a beer: real spruce or spruce flavor extracts. Extract is simpler but easy to overdo; the extract is extremely strong. To use real spruce, use new needles of Sitka spruce, from the new growth at the end of a branch; use twice the amount, by weight, as you would hops.


A historical recipe

The British Army's recipe for Spruce Beer:

From the Journal of General Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797), Governor-General of British North America

Take 7 Pounds of good spruce & boil it well till the bark peels off, then take the spruce out & put three Gallons of Molasses to the Liquor & and boil it again, scum it well as it boils, then take it out the kettle & put it into a cooler, boil the remained of the water sufficient for a Barrel of thirty Gallons, if the kettle is not large enough to boil it together, when milkwarm in the Cooler put a pint of Yest into it and mix well. Then put it into a Barrel and let it work for two or three days, keep filling it up as it works out. When done working, bung it up with a Tent Peg in the Barrel to give it vent every now and then. It may be used in up to two or three days after. If wanted to be bottled it should stand a fortnight in the Cask. It will keep a great while.

A modern recipe

Spruce Beer

5 gallons of water

1/8 pound of hops

1/2 cup of dried, bruised ginger root

1 pound of the outer twigs of spruce fir

3 quarts of molasses

1/2 yeast cake dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water

1. In a large kettle combine the water, hops, ginger root and spruce fir twigs.

2. Boil together until all the hops sink to the bottom of the kettle.

3. Strain into a large crock and stir in the molasses.

4. After this has cooled add the yeast.

5. Cover and leave to set for 48 hours.

6. Then bottle, cap and leave in a warm place (70-75 degrees F) for 5 days. It will now be ready to drink.

7. Store upright in a cool place.

Competition Styles

Neither the BJCP or the GABF recognize spruce beer except as a specialty beer style.