Firkin Around....
The Blog of King of Prussia Beer Outlet

Thursday, July 6, 2017

2 x 4 Spruce Beer Review

Fresh spruce tips that Jack picked
By: Jack Horzempa
(Originally Posted on Beer Advocate)

The brewers of Colonial America did not have a steady supply of beer ingredients (e.g., barley malt, hops,…) so they would be inventive and utilize other ingredients that were more readily available to them. As substitutes and/or augmentation for barley malt they would ingredients like pumpkin, parsnip, molasses,… As substitutes and/or augmentation for hops they would use other botanicals like yarrow, sweet gale, mug wort, spruce tips,…

So, today we are going to explore what fresh growth spruce tips provide to beer. Today’s tasting will be a 2 X 4 tasting: two beers in four glasses and my wife will be helping me.

One beer is a commercial beer: Blue Point Colonial Ale brewed with Golden Molasses & Spruce Tips.

On the bottle it lists: American Brown Ale 3.8% ABV. So in the Colonial times this would be referred to as a Small Beer since it is lower in alcohol.

There is an interesting story on the beer label:

“After being elected President, George Washington toured Long Island and stopped by hart’s Tavern in our brewery’s hometown of Patchogue for some oysters and a beer. In honor of the monumental meal, we brewed an American brown ale inspired by the era and George Washington’s own recipe. It proudly features two-row barley malted in NY and colonial ingredients like corn, oats, wheat, molasses and spruce tips which colonial brewers used to supplement hops. American history never tastes so good.”

The second beer we will be exploring today is my home-brewed Spruce Ale which was brewed using fresh growth spruce tips from my next door neighbor’s Blue Spruce tree. My beer is basically an APA where I used four ounces of freshly picked spruce tips (I picked them while the wort was boiling) as the end of boil addition. I have never brewed with spruce tips before so this is quite an exciting ‘experiment’.

The Blue Point beer served in Spiegelau IPA glasses and Jack’s Spruce Ale served in small tulip glasses:


Blue Point: Dark Amber/Brown with an off-white head.

Jack’s Spruce Ale: Golden colored with a white head.


Blue Point: Mostly malty (dark bready) but with just a tiny hint of sweetness.

Jack’s Spruce Ale: The predominant aroma is a unique/intriguing aroma from the spruce tips*.


Blue Point: The flavor pretty much follows the nose with the malty flavors dominating. My wife reported “subtle flavors from the spruce tips”. I personally did not perceive the spruce until the very last sip; because the beer was warmed/opened up at that point?

Jack’s Spruce Ale: The flavor follows the nose with the unique/intriguing flavors provided by the spruce tips*.


Blue Point: A medium body and a medium-dry finish.

Jack’s Spruce Ale: A medium mouthfeel and an off-dry finish.


Blue Point: Very good. Despite its low ABV I consider this to be a hearty beer.

Jack’s Spruce Ale: My wife wrote down: “Very, very good!”

*So, I used the descriptor of spruce tip aroma/flavor since I personally am at a loss of words to use for a more ‘objective’ description. Last weekend I attended a friends party and I brought along a few bottles of this spruce ale and gave folks pieces of paper and a pen and requested them to write down the aromas/flavors they perceived, This was not done blind; I felt compelled to provide a ‘warning’ that is was a Spruce Ale they were tasting. Some of the feedback I got was: “evergreen” and “grapefruit pith”. For me this beer’s aroma/flavor is not exactly “piney” or “resiny” but something different altogether. In a nutshell it does not smell or taste like anything else that I have personally experienced. As I made mention above: an ‘exciting’ experiment!!


Jack Horzempa is a longtime friend of the store and an extremely knowledgeable home brewer, brewing some of the best beer I have ever tasted. Jack's palate is well seasoned and he has been a valuable source of beer expertise to the store. He has graciously allowed us to re-post his review/posts from Beer Advocate where he has achieved Poo-bah status. Since joining Beer Advocate 12 yrs ago, Jack has posted more than 20,000 times and earned over 25,000 likes.

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