Nfld. & Labrador

Famous surveyor James Cook also a brewmaster

The Western Newfoundland Brewing Co. is making a spruce beer in honour of Captain James Cook, who used to brew a spruce beer for his sailors. The drink prevented scurvy on board long voyages across Newfoundland's coast.

250 years after Cook's visit to N.L., west coast brewing company makes spruce beer in his honour

Jim Macdonald brews the new spruce beer and says it has a refreshing sweet taste. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

When James Cook surveyed the coasts of Newfoundland in the 1700s, his crew would go ashore and make spruce beer. 

The drink not only quenched the sailors' thirst, spruce beer was credited in part for Cook's high success rate at preventing scurvy.

Two hundred and fifty years after Cook put Newfoundland on the map, the Western Newfoundland Brewing Company is making a spruce beer of its own.

Jim Macdonald pours a fresh glass of his spruce beer at the Western Newfoundland Brewing Company. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"Cook is significant internationally," said Jim Macdonald, who brews the beer.

"He is also [the one] who mapped New Zealand. Around the world his name is known. The fact that he had such an integral part in mapping Newfoundland, it's neat to be a part of that history and to see if we can bring this into the present day culture."

James Cook 250 celebrations are taking place on the west coast this summer, with new signs and maps going up to mark Cook's work. 

Paul Wylezol is fronting the project and approached the Western Newfoundland Brewing Company with the idea to brew a beer in Cook's honour.

James Cook and his crew brewed spruce beer in Newfoundland while mapping the coast in the 1700s. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"He perfected the spruce beer. It was being made by natives, locals and fisherman, and it helped combat scurvy. His log entries show he had to discipline the sailors for drinking too much," said Paul Wyesol.

Macdonald can see why, because the spruce beer he's created is sweet and refreshing.

"It turned out very well. The spruce is not overpowering. It doesn't taste like Pine-Sol," he said.

Staff at the brewing company collected fresh spruce tips from trees and stored them in a large freezer. The spruce tips are then added to the beer during different stages of the brewing process.

A darker malt is used in the mix to balance the strong spruce flavour. 

Paul Wylezol is organizing the James Cook 250 celebrations on Newfoundland's west coast this summer. (Colleen Connors/ CBC)

The Western Newfoundland Brewing Company will distribute the James Cook spruce beer to restaurants in Corner Brook and Gros Morne National Park in a couple of weeks. 


Colleen Connors reports on western Newfoundland from CBC's bureau in Corner Brook.