Fir, pine and spruce trees have flavored beer for centuries: Because he believed it to cure scurvy, Captain James Cook often kept beer brewed with spruce tips aboard his ship during his voyages throughout the 1700s, and Benjamin Franklin brought a recipe for spruce beer back home after his stint at the French court. Today, these beers primarily appear around the holidays, when fresh, piney Christmas tree scents are especially abundant, but their flavors, you could say, are evergreen.
Short’s Juicy Tree
Spruce tips and juniper berries weave woody, ginlike fragrances among this IPA’s floral hops, while an infusion of cranberries adds a tart, jammy bite to the sip, balancing a sweet tree-barkand- spearmint finish.
Grimm Super Spruce
One pound per barrel of spruce tips (many of them hand-picked by Joe and Lauren Grimm near their Brooklyn brewery) swirl in this dry-hopped gose for an hour before it goes to the fermenter, adding hints of pine and wintergreen to its puckering, limelike flavor.
Rock Art Vermont Spruce Stout
Previously known as Pumpkin Imperial Spruce Stout, this 8%-ABV ale began hitting shelves in September. Spruce tips and pumpkins work their way into the kettle, melding with notes of coffee and bitter dark chocolate.
No tree greenhorn, Washington-based Propolis has also made beers using cedar and birch. In this saison, spruce additions act like a minty hop, balancing flavors of bright lemon and peppercorns with woodsy bitterness.
The Ale Apothecary Ralph
A more tree-laden beer than Ralph you’re not likely to find; white fir is added for powerful, herbaceous hits of pine and sage to go with the wild ale’s green apple acidity and white wine finish.
Yards Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce
Based on a recipe designed by Ben Franklin himself, this brew combines spruce tips and sprigs with molasses; the result is an ale that sprinkles notes of baking spices, lavender and lemongrass atop a rich, sweet bready malt base.
Banded Horn Greenwarden
Maine-foraged spruce tips bolster the aroma and flavor of this canned American pale ale, threading gentle menthol through the quiet orangey aroma and into the flavor, where blue spruce flashes at the swallow before fading into sweet gummy candies and firm bitterness.
Alaskan Winter Ale
The sweet toffee, cotton candy and mixed berry flavors of this 6.4% old ale are derived mainly from specialty malts, but the surge of mint and pine that rises at the finish can be attributed to Sitka spruce, Alaska’s state tree.
Left Hand Pride Runs Deep
Proceeds from sales of this 6.8% IPA support the submariners of the USS Colorado and their families; tea cakelike malt flavor supports the mossy earthiness and menthol contributed by Colorado blue spruce tips.
No actual pine needles were harmed in the making of this 6.5% IPA, but Chinook and Equinox hops provide so much resiny flavor—paired with notes of bright lemon and a dry, bitter finish—that you’d never know the difference.