Spruce Beer

Spruce BeerI did a Nando’s run tonight, so I didn’t cook anything today. Still living off of those scones. I thought I’d post about spruce beer. My Jane Austen and Food book went on about Mr. Knightley and his spruce beer. Spruce beer being appropriate for gentlemen to drink. And make themselves as Mr. Knightley gives his recipe to Mr. Elton. As I don’t have any spruce branches lying around nor a pot big enough to boil the essence out of it in, I thought I’d try a different alternative. I googled and I found some interesting options. There are alcoholic ones out there and non-alcoholicy ginger ale-esque ones out there. The soda ones don’t seem to be available in my area, so I went with the alcoholic kind. Total Wine carried Yards Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce. (First time I’d ever been in one. It’s very impressive. It made me wish I had an appreciation for beer and wine. I never knew there were so many different kinds.) Poor Richard’s claims to be based on Benjamin Franklin’s original recipe. It uses malt because hops weren’t available at the time. Made with molasses, spruce tips and sprigs. You can actually taste the spruce. It’s rather interesting. But the beer as a whole was just disgusting. I took a few sips and couldn’t even stomach it to drink more. I do admit that I don’t like beer and prefer my drinks to be sweet, so please don’t take my reaction as an end all be all. Give it a try.  You might like it. It definitely tastes like spruce. I’m just glad I got two bottles instead of a whole six pack. Maybe I can find a brave friend to finish off that second bottle for me.

Now I’m not sure how different Mr. Knightley and Benjamin Franklin’s spruce beers were. I wonder what Mr. Knightley would think of Benjamin Franklin. It amuses me that they liked the same beer though. The recipe referenced in Jane Austen and Food comes from Food in England by Dorothy Hartley. “One pint good spruce extract, 12lb treacle, 3 gallons of water. Boil all and let stand 1 hour. Add 3 or 4 gallons of water, 1 pint of yeast (the water should be hand warm). Pour into a 10-gallon cask. Filler her up, let her work. Bung her up. Bottle her off.” So now you can see why I wasn’t brave enough to try it myself. Apparently spruce branches are unforgiving when you boil them too long. If I were to make it, I’d try to make it taste less beer-y (if that’s possible?) and sweeter. They also used to believe that spruce beer would help prevent scurvy. There’s a lot of stuff out there if you google spruce beer. A lot of braver people than me have successfully made it. Maybe someday I’ll try making my own. Until then I’ll keep an eye out for spruce beer. Maybe I can learn to like it like Mr. Elton.

ETA: I’ve been clicking around looking at different spruce beer recipes. This one from The Splendid Table actually sounds doable. It’s more like a soda than beer. When I feel like tracking down oil of spruce, I’ll give this a try. Maybe for the family for Christmas?


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