Garrison’s Spruce Beer
It’s amazing how often I find a recipe or an ingredient in a recipe that originated from a shortage of a preferred ingredient. For example, Quebec’s shepherd’s pie is the result of railroad worker cooks substituting carrots and peas with corn in order to save money. There is also an old fashion chocolate cake made with tomato juice which is actually quite delicious. The logic; our great grand-mothers baking cakes way back in the 1800s might have substituted milk with tomate juice, the latter one being much more accessible and affordable, but enough with culinary history, let’s relate it to beer, spruce beer. Why spruce? Shortage of barley and hops. There’s the connection.
Back in the late 1800s, the pioneers and troops in Nova Scotia needed a cold one after a long day’s work and so brewing beer was an absolute necessity. Cheers to our ancestors! Problem was, barley and hops were not always available and when available, not in the best of conditions and so spruce tree tops were used for flavouring. So, just like Quebec’s shepherd’s pie and tomato juice chocolate cake, the “adapted” recipes became a staple, just like Whalburger’s Government cheese. What was once a compromise is now an acquired taste. Garrison Brewery, in Nova Scotia, decided to revive the recipe by stuffing their boilers with pine tree tops and resurrect the recipe. The amount of trial and error is unknown to me, but what I do know is the end result is pretty fantastic.
Look: It pours a clear, rusty brown with good frothy head.
Smell: Spruce is obviously a major element here but I was able to pick up some of the malts, the molasses and a dark fruit note as well.
Taste: What I enjoyed most is the fact that it met my spruce taste expectations yet to my surprise didn’t overpower. I was eager to try it but like spruce sodas, I didn’t think I’d finish the bottle. It proved me wrong. Although the spruce taste was very present, the molasses, licorice and malts were still present enough to balance out the taste and quite frankly, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.
Finish: It’s no surprise that the finishing note was spruce. A little sweeter and bitter at once.
Feel: Creamy and well carbonated enough.
Context: Right on.
Repeater: Perhaps, yes.
Pairing: Well, beeradvocate.com suggests desserts while Garrison suggests stews, roasts and hearthy cheeses. I don’t see it as a digestif. Pair it with savory.
Price: 5.30$ / 550 ml
Availability: Repeating seasonal look for it again around late fall.
Beer type: Flavoured Ale
Country / Region: Nova Scotia.
I can see why Garrison ran out of stock in just a few weeks.