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Ale Spruced Up And Nowhere To Go But In My Glass

Grande Prairie’s Grain Bin Brewing is a small outfit (as I have explained here). Yet someone seems to be making an effort to try to get at least a few bottles of their product down to Edmonton, as it pops up once in a while at Sherbrooke Liquor (and maybe other places too).

A recent find was a bomber of their recent seasonal release Ale Spruced Up, an American Pale Ale flavoured with local spruce tips. While spruce beer is not exactly my favourite style (I generally find the balance is out of whack) the novelty of getting a rare Grain Bin beer made it a no-brainer. It sat in my cellar for a couple weeks or so (which means it might be sold out now. If so, sorry for posting this too late), but I did finally get around to cracking it last week.

It pours medium gold with a slight haze to it. It builds a big white head and leaves a fair bit of lacing on the side of the glass. Carbonation looks a little light. The aroma comes out with a soft pine note at first, followed by some spruce aroma, all backed by a honey malt accent and some light graininess. Not a bad start.

The front of the beer has an earthy, spruce/pine character along with some honey and light fruity esters. I immediately notice there is an interplay of pine and spruce going on. The middle brings in more hop flavours of citrus and pine, but with the spruce still lurking in the background. The linger is fresh spruce bough, pine, and a light grainy note. Bitterness level is moderate but present. My initial suspicions of the carbonation are borne out – it could have a bit more fizz to bring out some of the subtle flavours more.

My main impression of this beer is its balance. The spruce makes itself known throughout the taste but doesn’t take over the beer, leaving other qualities to shine as well. Spruceheads (is there such a thing?) will likely call for a bigger spruce character but, me, I prefer its more subdued approach.

I also suspect that the hop additions were intentional to draw out a pine character. I really appreciate the interplay between the spruce and the pine. Not only does it create an enticing tree-ness, the two combined offer a bit more complexity, allowing the beer to escape the risks of being a one-note wonder (which I find can happen with this style). For an American Pale Ale, it likely could do with a bigger bitterness impression, but that might come at the risk of throwing off this cool pine-spruce tension the beer has going on.

Just goes to show you that little gems that can be found in every corner of Alberta these days.

A nicely done beer.

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