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Belt’s Beer Garden: No Hops? No Problem

Fort George’s Spruce Budd - an ale brewed with zero hops

Fort George Brewery and Public House is back for the second time here on Belt’s Beer Garden. The Astoria, Oregon brewery was established in 2007 and loves their Pacific Northwest roots, as they are only distributed in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, and Washington) with a few of their beers making their way to Tavour.

When I saw that their late spring/early summer release was a beer brewed with absolutely no hops, I knew I needed to try it (yes, even as a hop-head).

Enter their “spiced/herb” beer Spruce Budd. This beer was brewed using only Pilsner malt and fresh spruce tips that were hand picked by the brewery/marketing team earlier this year. It has a 5.5% ABV and each 16-ounce can cost me just $4.

Spruce Budd poured a translucent golden copper color with less than half a finger of white head appearing. The bubbles came with loud fizzling then quickly disappeared with the exception of a small ring around the edge of the glass.

Without the addition of any hops, the aroma was mostly the malt and grain base - a caramel and bready quality that led the way with some earthy pine from the spruce tips. Surprisingly, though, it also had some fruity notes. There was a light lemon and berry undertone to it all that gave the beer a sweeter, lighter aroma and made it rather inviting.

My first sip began with a lighter, more watery mouthfeel before the flavors really began to kick in. And I was incredibly surprised at how much of the fruit flavor actually popped.

A combination of blackberry, raspberry, and lemon/citrus hit first at the tip of my tongue. The fruit flavors then washed across every taste bud I had and sat themselves down for a good few moments.

Midway through the sip the malts add some sweeter flavors with the caramel and biscuit really peeking out here and mixing well with the other flavors.

Towards the backend, though, the spruce tips joined in and added a light earthy pine flavor and some other herbal undertones, like lemongrass and basil. There was a nice little spice to the beer from the spruce here too that gave some more depth to the beer.

Spruce Budd then ends with a bit of dryness and a sticky resinous feeling (most likely from the spruce tips) lingering on for a few moments afterwards.

Overall this is one delicious, crushable, super easy to drink beers. It has a ton of great flavors that mix and balance well and after every sip I was ready to go back for more. I only wish I had bought more than a pair of cans.

This is a great beer. And I never thought I’d say that about a brew with no hops in it...but Fort George has done it with Spruce Budd. Get it while it lasts!

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