DRAFT Style Guidelines: Canadian Spruce Beer 

Contributed by Dave Cole

Overall Impression

A traditional Canadian beer made with spruce tips or bark, with a warming medicinal herbal aroma, flavour and aftertaste.    Full bodied with substantial malt character which stops short of being burnt roasted.  Lightly hopped without overpowering the medicinal herbal aroma and flavour, low to medium-high alcohol content.  Regularly found in Eastern Canada, but can be found across the country usually in the late spring and early summer when the buds are at their prime.  There is also a non-alcoholic soda version called Biere d’Epinette, or Spruce Beer, which is kind of confusing, and that also tastes great – kind of like a medicinal ginger beer!  This style can use many different base styles, as long as the spruce is predominant without being overpowering. 


Moderate to intense medicinal herbal spruce character, similar to eucalyptus, not like Pine-Sol cleaner.  Low to moderate notes of toasted malt and caramel sweetness.  Often described as citrusy, resinous, and medicinal, sometimes floral and cola-like depending on the species of tree used and time of year harvested.  Hops are subtle to moderate, often citrus/resinous forward.  Possibly some light smokiness as well.  May include molasses qualities similar to dark spiced rum, licorice and tobacco.  Well balanced between sweet malt and medicinal herbal spruce. Light alcohol aroma is allowable. No yeast character.  Spruce needs to be the feature of the aroma balanced by sweet malt.


Gold to dark brown color; most are medium to dark amber. Typically clear, but often hazy.  Moderate creamy, long lasting ivory head.


Medicinal herbal forward, toasted malt with some caramel sweetness. Low to moderate hop bitterness, low to moderate hop flavour. Moderate to strong spruce warming medicinal spiciness. Fairly sweet finish with lingering medicinal herbal warmth.  Different spruce tree species have significantly different flavours, but all have warming medicinal herbal qualities.  May also have citrus, floral, fruity, eucalyptus or even cola like notes due to the variety of spruce used and when harvested – more floral in the spring, more resiny bitter later in the year.  Smooth alcohol character is acceptable. Spruce needs to be the feature of the flavour, balanced by sweet malt.


Medium to full body, light sweet finish, not cloying.  Low to medium carbonation. Warmth from the medicinal spruce often lingers, but this is often masked by light sweetness. Slight astringency is allowable.  Alcohol warmth is allowable as long as it is not hot or harsh.


The use of spruce doesn’t mean that it should taste like Pine-Sol cleaner, Little Tree car air fresheners or Christmas trees. The spruce acts like hops in the balance and flavour, providing a bitterness counterpoint to the sweet malt. Medicinal, herbal, woody character more common than bitter pine resin west coast style hops. Well balanced between spruce and sweet malt while keeping the spruce flavour and aroma the highlight of the beer.

Characteristic Ingredients

Often all-malt, though molasses is a common and historically appropriate adjunct. Spruce tips, bark, shoots and sap may be used. Commonly uses neutral ale yeast strains, but could use lager yeast.  Often brewed in the late spring and early summer when the spruce buds are at their prime, similar to fresh hopped beers in the fall.

Style Comparison

Passing resemblance to a Finnish Sahti, or a Gruit, but has a unique warming herbal medicinal aroma and flavour from the spruce. Has a similar colour and body to a Doppelbock, with a unique warming medicinal herbal aftertaste.  This is the only style of beer that uses spruce as a main ingredient, and often doesn’t use hops as spruce has similar flavours and aroma.

Entry Instructions

Entrant should specify which variety of tree was used (Black, Blue, White, Brewers, Norway, or Sitka Spruce, Douglas or Grand Fir, etc.) as each species varies significantly in aroma and flavour.  Also specify which part of the plant (buds, bark, shoots or sap) was used, and how they were used in the brewing process.  Entrant should also identify any other botanicals, spices, or fruits used if any, including molasses. 

Vital Statistics


15 – 40


8 – 28


1.045 – 1.075


1.010 – 1.018


4% – 8%

Commercial Examples

Biere D’Epinette by La P’tite, Simcoe Spruce by Half Pints Brewing, Spruce Campbell by Malty National Brewing, Spruce Tip Ale by Howl Brewing and Garrison Brewing, and many others across Canada.


Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet Recipes

Origin: Fort Beauséjour-Fort Cumberland National Historic Site
Region: Atlantic (New Brunswick)
Period: Traditional

The brewing of spruce and other types of beer has a long history in Canada. It was a common beverage in both British and French forts across the country as early as the 18th century, and was certainly enjoyed by the Acadians who settled near Fort Beausejour – Fort Cumberland National Historic Site. 

Spruce Beer


  • 7 oz | 200 g cleaned and washed spruce tree shoots
  • 2 quarts | 2 litres water
  • 1.5 oz | 40 g yeast
  • 1.5 oz | 40 g sugar
  • Acadians used rye, wheat, fir tree shoots, dandelions and hops as a base for beer. Water, yeast and sugar were added and the mixture was set aside to ferment for several days. Similar to a root or ginger beer, the amount of sugar or molasses used in the recipe will help to determine the drink’s alcohol content.

Dean Kelly’s Simcoe Spruce Pale Ale – BIAB method

  • 6 gallon batch
  • Standard 2-Row (Mash Tun) 2.3 kg
  • Maris Otter Malt (Mash Tun) 2.3 kg
  • Crystal 40 (Mash Tun) 0.45 kg
  • Simcoe® (13.0%) Boil (Kettle) 60 m 28 g
  • Simcoe® (13.0%) Post-Boil (Kettle) 0.0 m 28 g
  • Spruce Tips; Dean Late Addition (Kettle) 5 m 0.216 kg
  • Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05 Primary (Fermenter) 1 package   
  • Simcoe® (13.0%) Secondary (Fermenter) 28 g Dry hop

I usually shoot for 67 or 68C mash temp. 

I can’t remember where I even got the idea in the first place, maybe on a website or something.  Anyhow, in my backyard I have a pretty huge Colorado Blue Spruce and I decided to incorporate it into a beer.  I pick the tips when they’re nice and fresh.  Usually here that’s around the end of May, but will probably be earlier in warmer places.  When the fresh tips cast off their brown, papery husk and are nice and green and soft, and are around 5cm long, that’s the best time to pick them.  I usually pick them on a brew day during the boil and use them right away, but I’ve picked some and frozen them.  The frozen ones were still good in beers and I didn’t really notice much of a difference.  They don’t taste like licking a spruce tree like you’d expect, they have kind of a unique, citrusy flavour that I really like.  For the first spruce tip beer, I chose Simcoe hops as I thought they’d work well with the spruce.  

I was pretty happy with it and entered it in the 2013 Winnipeg Homebrew Pro/Am competition.  I was stunned when it won Best of Show, I never expected it and couldn’t believe it!  Part of the prize was to brew the beer at Half Pints in Winnipeg.  I think Dave Rudge and I brewed 3000 litres of it and it turned out really well.  I actually drove to Winnipeg with several coolers full of spruce tips to use in the beer.  It was felt really cool to drink the beer I brewed at HP on tap in a bar in Saskatoon.  Dave (cool guy) even bought me breakfast during the brew day so I guess for a day I was a “professional” brewer as I was paid in food.  

Since the big win, I’ve re-brewed the beer almost every spring, usually using more and more spruce.  I read an article with some brewer and he said you can never use too much spruce in a beer and I think that’s pretty true.  I’ve used 4 or 5 times more spruce in beers than in the original batch and they were all still really good.  I’ve subbed in Citra for some of the Simcoe in the recipe and that was really good as well.  I’ve noticed that the beers I’ve brewed with spruce have always aged really well.  I think the vitamin C (ascorbic acid) content of the tips acts as a bit of a preservative and keep the beers from staling.  Even old bottles of it are still pretty tasty. 

One thing to note is that the spruce tips can really clog up a brew system.  I was doing brew in a bag at the time and just put the tips in a bag and let them steep at the end of the boil and while chilling.  A bag or hop spider for the tips is a very good and time saving idea. 

Spruce Beer Recipe by Michael Deluca

  • 2 gallons water
  • 6 oz molasses
  • 6.5 oz 90L crystal malt
  • 6.25 oz Munich malt
  • 6.5 oz amber caramel pilsner malt
  • 25 oz light dry malt extract
  • 8 oz fresh Norway spruce tips and boughs
  • dry ale yeast

I added the spruce exactly as I would an equivalent amount of hops: 4 oz for bittering at the start of the boil, 2 oz after 30 minutes, and another 2 oz after 50 minutes for aroma.

Original gravity was 1.061, final gravity was 1.015.