Benjamin Franklin famously said that “beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Not only did he enjoy a beverage or two, but the founding father also wrote a recipe for beer flavored with spruce tree needles, which is still being made in several breweries today. The Alaskan Brewing Co. offers an original and tasty take on spruce beer with their Winter Ale, using Sitka spruce tips to flavor this special seasonal brew.
Eschewing Franklin’s use of molasses, Alaskan instead emulates the English Olde Ale style (not to be confused with the similarly-named malt liquor). Winter Ale appears unremarkable but hides its rich and unique flavor behind its ordinary amber red color, light foam, and very faint earthy smell. One might expect a flavor like a car air freshener or Pine-Sol, but the first taste is pleasantly surprising, with no obvious pine taste. It starts with a full, malty sweetness, tasting darker than it looks. The moderate 27 IBUs provide a balanced middle, while the mellow citrus flavor from the noble hops and a slightly floral, spicy, and resinous flavor from the spruce tips round out the finish. The 6.4% alcohol content is noticeable, but not overpowering, adding a nice warming sensation that comes in handy during the cold winter months.
Winter Ale would pair well with cold-weather food like a hearty stew, maybe with some grizzly bear meat and potatoes. Not to mention that the spruce adds a healthy dose of Vitamin C for a healthy meal. And although rich and flavorful, Winter Ale is light and balanced enough to be an easily drinkable “session beer.” For this reason, and because it is possibly the only spruce ale available in North America, Alaskan Winter ale earns a B+ grade and deserves a place on your table this holiday season.
Beer statistics courtesy of www.alaskanbeer.com