Type of Beer: Spruce Beer
Beer: Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce Ale
Brewery: Yards Brewing Company
Place of Purchase: Joe Canal’s, Marlton, NJ
Bottling Date: NA
Nose: Nutty, earthy, slight hints of pine, real pine, not hoppy pine.
Mouth: Medium body. Tangy, slight orange peel. Definitive pine. Sweet and caramel flavors in the aftertaste with a smokey peatyness.
So this is the next brew in the brew in the Ales Of the Revolution series made by Yards. This is from Benjamin Franklin’s notes. It’s brewed with spruce tips and molasses because hops and barely were hard to come by back then. So this is really more of a malted beverage than a beer. With that said, it’s worth trying.
That’s what I first thought of when I tried this.Then I started looking in to it. Captain Cook brewed something similar from spruce branches and sugar to make a beer loaded with vitamin C and other stuff that helped prevent fun stuff like scurvy on long sea voyages. So this isn’t as odd as I thought it was.
But I thought that all the spruces were up north with the lowest reaching ones being the red spruce in the Adirondacks. Well, yes, that’s true but that is their natural range extension. People have widened that quite a bit. Red spruce is also a common Christmas Tree choice in the northeast due to abundance and ease of access. But the range gets spotty south of the Adirondacks but it’s there and within easy reach of Ben Franklin in Philadelphia. It’s also easy to grow in the area because it’s not that far out of the range.
So, the story checks out and the more I sampled this brew the more I realized that it smells like a Southern NJ pine forest. They are loaded with all kinds of pines from Scrub Pines to Spruces that offers a distinctive bouquet of aromas unique to the area. They are most fragrant on a cool summer evening/night after baking in the summer heat all day.The aroma changes in the winter though and there is a more must smell, likely because none of the trees are flowering or pollinating at that time so all you get is the tree smell and not the added sweet flowers on top of it. It’s the same smell many candle companies associate with a “Christmas Scented Candle”. That’s pretty much what this beer’s pine aroma is although it’s pretty faint. It’s there ’cause it’s distinctive though. Not because it’s over powering.
As a beer, this is different. It’s unique and after looking further in to it, this is a real deal. People actually made this brew and drank it fairly frequently. It’s fallen out of favor because, well, the primary purpose was nutrition in times when things like citrus fruits, loaded with stuff like vitamin C, were scarce. As do all necessities that become no longer a necessity, this fell out of favor.
I’m not really sure why though ’cause this is not bad at all. It’s like a brown ale but fizzier and has that pine undertone which has grown on me to be quite delightful. So it scores some points for being different and even more for historical purposes. I mean, this is drinking history and there is just something inherently cool about that. So I gave this a 7 out of 10. It loses points for not being a real beer but it is pretty good, undeniably unique and worth a try.
I’ll grab it again. Especially around the Christmas holiday time ’cause it’s a great cold weather, homey brew!