Anchor Spruce Beer

After posting a different Anchor Christmas Ale label every day for the last 42 days, I guess I’m not quite ready to let go just yet. Old-timers like me may also remember that Anchor made a Spruce Beer in 1991 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Great American Beer Festival.

I recall it being available on draft at GABF that year, but the remaining beer was then bottled in six-packs and sold until it was gone. I picked up several six-packs during that time, and apparently I am one of the few people to have really enjoyed the beer. It had a very fragrant nose, almost like Pine-Sol or a spruce cleanser, but it was much more muted in the flavor.

Unfortunately, Anchor rarely ever mentions it anymore. Even Fritz Maytag apparently thought it was too strong on the spruce character. There’s nothing about it on their website, and the only mention I could find was in a Modern Brewery Age article from 1991:

The Anchor Brewing Co. is presenting a draft of brewing history with a “spruce beer” that will be sold only in the city of San Francisco and in Colorado. The production of the brew will commemorate the 10th Great American Beer Festival to be held in Denver in early October.

Spruce beer is a revival of an old brewing tradition that was originated centuries ago in Northern Europe. Spruce beer was also a part of United States colonial history, as it was required by the Continental Congress to be part of every American soldier’s rations in 1775.

According to Fritz Maytag, Anchor Brewing Co.’s president and brewmaster, spruce beer is one example of many beers popular in pre-industrial Europe and America, which were brewed at home with locally available flavors and spices.

“This tradition includes everything from root beer to wassail,” Maytag noted. “Making this historic beer is a gesture of exploration and celebration. It’s an essay, an attempt to reach back into brewing history to honor the 10th anniversary of The Great American Beer Festival, and to celebrate our modern brewing Renaissance.”

Personally, I wish they’d brew it again, but I’m almost certain that will never happen. Anyway, here’s what the label looked like. It’s a shame I don’t have any to open for Unbottling Day.





  1. Alec Moss says

    I bought a six pack of Anchor Spruce Beer and did not like it at all. Your Pine-Sol reference clearly explains why. However, a few years later I had two bottles left over and tried one. It had improved significantly. While a bit stale, the spruce had mellowed and softened and the beer was more balanced and drinkable. Shortly thereafter I drank the other one and enjoyed it too.

  2. Arlen Siert says

    Interesting Jay. I had Anchor Spruce once when I lived in San Franciso in the Anchor Bar on draft. I loved it. Wish Anchor would make it again or I new a clone recipe. Tried to brew it once but used too much spruce extract. A little goes a long way. I often brew an Anchor Steam simulation nowadays. Their new Anchor Steam Dry Hopped is very good.

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