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1796 Spruce Beer (Gluten Free)

131 calories 12.9 g 12 oz
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Beer Stats
Method: All Grain
Style: Specialty Beer
Boil Time: 30 min
Batch Size: 1 gallons (fermentor volume)
Pre Boil Size: 1.25 gallons
Pre Boil Gravity: 1.032 (recipe based estimate)
Efficiency: 75% (brew house)
Source: Amelia Simmons - American Cookery 1796
Calories: 131 calories (Per 12oz)
Carbs: 12.9 g (Per 12oz)
Created Wednesday October 9th 2013
Amount Fermentable Cost PPG °L Bill %
1 lb Corn Syrup1 lb Corn Syrup 37 0.5 91.4%
1.50 oz Molasses1.5 oz Molasses 36 80 8.6%
1.09 lbs / 0.00
Amount Variety Cost Type AA Use Time IBU Bill %
3.50 g Cascade3.5 g Cascade Hops Pellet 7 Boil 30 min 14.8 19.8%
0.25 oz Cascade0.25 oz Cascade Hops Pellet 7 Boil 10 min 14.14 40.1%
0.25 oz Cascade0.25 oz Cascade Hops Pellet 7 Boil 0 min 40.1%
0.62 oz / 0.00
Other Ingredients
Amount Name Cost Type Use Time
1 oz Spruce Tips Flavor Boil 5 min.
Danstar - Nottingham Ale Yeast
1 Each
Attenuation (avg):
Optimum Temp:
57 - 70 °F
Fermentation Temp:
65 °F
Pitch Rate:
0.35 (M cells / ml / ° P) 13 B cells required
0.00 Yeast Pitch Rate and Starter Calculator
Method: Dextrose       Amount: 1oz      

From "American Cookery" in 1796, by Amelia Simmons (an American orphan).

Please note: This is an adaptation of the Spruce Beer recipe from American Cookery. This recipe was written mentioning "molasses," however this is what we would call light molasses/golden syrup today...not dark molasses or blackstrap molasses. Dark or blackstrap molasses darkens the color of the brew and changes the flavor characteristics (the 1oz addition of molasses is in fact dark/blackstrap molasses - for color mostly). Ensure that you use golden syrup (like Lyle's) or corn syrup, NOT dark or blackstrap molasses for the 1lb addition.


Start with 1.25 gallon of water. When boiling, add molasses (not corn syrup/golden syrup), spruce tips, and hops according to schedule, and boil for 30 minutes total.

Strain hops and spruce tips out of mixture into another pot, remove from heat.

Add 1lb golden syrup or corn syrup. One bottle of Lyle's Golden Syrup is about 1lb. If you don't have fresh spruce tips, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of spruce essence. Stir until dissolved.

Cool to approximately 70-80 degrees, transfer to a 1 gallon jug, and pitch 1/2 packet of Gluten Free yeast like a Danstar variety (Nottingham preferred). Ferment about 2 weeks, then bottle.

Use 1oz of dextrose or 0.9oz table sugar at bottling for carbonation.


"American Cookery" was the first American-written cookbook published in America. Previous efforts were adapted from English cookbooks, written by men. This cookbook focuses on new world ingredients and was written by a woman, Amelia Simmons - who is mentioned to be an American orphan on the original edition of this book. Not much is known about Amelia, but this is her recipe for spruce beer. The cookbook is actually a very interesting read about a multitude of cooking subjects from a colonial American's perspective.

The full, free and free to distribute ebook version of this cookbook can be found here:

This "spruce beer" recipe can be found towards the end of the book.

At around 4.5 - 5% ABV, this is a small beer. These were common in colonial America as the alcohol and boiling helped make the water safer to drink.

Interesting to note that there is no grain in this recipe, so technically it is probably not really a "beer." It only contains hops, molasses, water, and spruce essence. Using Danstar yeast (all Danstar yeasts are gluten free) and thoroughly cleaned/sterilized utensils will make this a gluten free beer.

I add spruce tips when they're in season and fresh. These are the bright green bushy new growth that pop out of spruce trees in the spring.

With a nice balance of hops to spruce (and perhaps fresh spruce tips instead of the essence), one might also consider this to be a "faux pale ale."

The key to this brew is finding the amount of spruce essence that is not overpowering for you, and marries well with the hops. Adjust the spruce essence, spruce tips, and hops variety as you see fit. Go very light until you reach the ratio that you enjoy.

*Original recipe (about 19 gallons) follows:

Take four ounces of hops, let them boil half an hour in one gallon of water, strain the hop water then add sixteen gallons of warm water, two gallons of molasses, eight ounces of essence of spruce, dissolved in one quart of water, put it in a clean cask, then shake it well together, add half a pint of emptins (see below), then let it stand and work one week, if very warm weather less time will do, when it is drawn off to bottle, add one spoonful of molasses to every bottle.

"Emptins" are a yeast starter. Here is the recipe for that, which immediately follows the Spruce Beer recipe:

Take a handful of hops and about three quarts of water, let it boil about fifteen minutes, then make a thickening as you do for starch, strain the liquor, when cold put a little emptins to work them, they will keep well cork'd in a bottle five or six weeks.

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  • Last Updated: 2014-05-16 14:09 UTC
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