Garrison Brewing's Christmas tree beer in high demand
At a strong 7.5% alcohol, Halifax microbrewery's spruce brew is getting hard to find
A Halifax brewery is using one of Nova Scotia’s biggest exports to make a traditional, if not entirely conventional, beer.
Garrison Brewing Company has released a limited edition batch of spruce beer, a brew made using Christmas trees.
Brian Titus, president of Garrison Brewing, said when the idea of making the beer was first proposed, he was not a fan.
"Not gonna to do it. No," he said. "This is not going to be the beer that takes this brewery down."
Garrison brewmaster Daniel Girard had heard stories about his grandfather’s spruce beer.
"So then I decided to work on it and see how I would have made a spruce beer myself if I were a first settler, like years ago," he said.
Spruce beer is a Canadian tradition that has had Canucks snipping trees back to the days of the earliest colonists, a tradition also embraced to the south.
"I know that the Americans would do it because George Washington made spruce beer," Girard said.
How Canadian can you get, eh?- Brian Titus, company president
To make the traditional brew, Girard harvests spruce sprigs, as well as some fir twigs, and puts them into a large boiler. After a good soaking, he takes out the branches, adds some malt, blackstrap molasses, dates and hops.
Eventually, he asked his boss to crack one open.
"You know, just some wonderful aromas... that come off it. It feels like you're out in a winter evening, walking through the woods. It's pretty wonderful. You just can't feel your toes any more cause it's starting to kick in a little bit," Titus joked.
At 7.5 per cent alcohol content, the beer is not for the faint of heart.
Tracy Phillippi of Garrison said the brewery has seen a lot of demand for spruce beer.
"Maybe a month ago, the emails started to come in, you know one or two a day or Facebook messages saying, ‘When is spruce beer coming? We need to mark it on our calendar, we’re going to take off work,’ " Phillippi said.
Once the batch was ready for sale, customers showed up bright and early to nab some of the beer made from Christmas trees.
"How Canadian can you get, eh? We like to say, 'Party like it's 1749,' " Titus said.
The brewery's Marginal Road location still has some of the specialty beer in stock, though supplies at NSLCs may be harder to find.