Pining for a unique brew to drink along with your next cigar? Look no further than Samuel Adams' new Spruce Lager, a beer brewed with spruce tips. Part of the new Samuel Adams fall variety pack, Spruce Lager is an easy-drinking beer with a slightly tart and piney flavor profile that’s just robust enough to pair with a mild- to medium-body cigar.
Depending on how much of a beer geek you are, spruce tips may not sound like a strange ingredient. After all, we are living in an age where peanut butter, cucumber, pumpkin and even pizza are routinely seen in the craft beers available on store shelves.
Spruce tips, though, have actually been used as an alternative ingredient to traditional hops for a long time. According to The Oxford Companion to Beer, recipes for ales brewed with spruce date back as far as the 17th century. When Capt. James Cook landed in New Zealand in 1769, beer brewed with spruce tips was reportedly stowed away on his ship. Spruce tip beers were common in colonial America, and even Benjamin Franklin was a fan, as he brought a spruce tip beer recipe back home with him after a trip to France.
When added to beer, spruce tips offer a piney character that shies away from becoming too resinous for the palate. They can be found in well-known beers such as Winter Ale from the Alaskan Brewing Co. and are sometimes used in Anchor Brewing’s annual Christmas seasonal beer called Our Special Ale. What makes Samuel Adams Spruce Lager stand apart from these brews, however, is the fact that it uses lager yeast, which gives it a crisp finish.
Hopheads will also appreciate that Spruce Lager is brewed with the Saaz and 682 hop varieties, which render the beer faintly herbal. The malt blend also includes acidulated malt, which is pale malt that, after kilning, has been subjected to a lactic acid fermentation. This gives Spruce Lager a slightly tart flavor, a nice balance to the spruce and pine notes.
Samuel Adams Spruce Lager (5.1 percent alcohol by volume)
APPEARANCE: The golden liquid pours clear as an untouched mountain stream, with a foamy head that quickly dissipates. Good lacing, especially for a lager.
AROMA: Herbs and pine dominate the bouquet, with delicate citrus notes coming through.
PALATE: Orange citrus at the start, and then a hint of grapefruit comes in before pine needles at the midpoint. The crisp swallow offers a pleasant tartness that lingers, but doesn’t overwhelm.
CIGAR PAIRING: Charter Oak CT Shade Rothschild (Nicaragua, 4 1/2 inches by 50, $5, 93 points, Dec. 2018 Cigar Aficionado). Rich woods and complex herbs set the tone for this attractive robusto. Each puff leaves impressions of oaky vanilla, spearmint and caraway seeds along with floral notes and a cashew nuttiness.
What a dynamic duo this turned out to be. Tasted together, the herbal notes from the beer and cigar muted each other, allowing the cigar’s oaky vanilla and caraway seed notes to amplify. In turn, the orange citrus from the beer received a boost. Overall, the pairing is fresh and bright.