Here’s a “Camp” Recipe for Ya — Jane Austen’s Spruce Tip Beer

Ever heard of a “small” beer? Not like in size, we mean. It’s a low-alcohol beer that craft breweries don’t often brew, though you’ll find them occasionally as part of summer releases in hot weather mountain towns. Light, very refreshing, sometimes flavored with whatever ingredients are lying around.

Jane Austen, yes, that Jane Austen, sure knew of them. She grew up in an England during which drinking untreated water courted a run in with, well, the runs. Or worse. So, like lots of families, hers brewed their own beer. She was apparently quite good at it. Her favorite was the spruce beer recipe below. Spiked with molasses, it likely had a pleasant sweetness to match the bitterness of hops and the floral spice of spruce. Also, with all that added sugar for the yeast to ferment, it may not have been that “small” after all.

The exact recipe Austen favored has been lost to history. But the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, had a go in recent years in replicating the brew from notes she left behind. Looks easy enough. If you want to recreate it, we’d suggest using a proper carboy and bubbler to be sure fermentation is going on during the five-day rest period. Of course, we can’t be held responsible for the taste or any rambunctiousness you get up to after trying it, nor any errors in the fermenting process.

Recipe from the Jane Austen Centre


20 litres of water
5 grams of hops
1/2 cup of dried, bruised ginger root
1/2 kilogram of the outer twigs of spruce fir
3 litres of molasses
1/2 yeast cake dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water


1. In a large kettle combine the water, hops, ginger root, and spruce fir twigs.
2. Boil together until all the hops sink to the bottom of the kettle.
3. Strain into a large crock and stir in the molasses.
4. After this has cooled add the yeast.
5. Cover and leave to set for 48 hours.
6. Then bottle, cap and leave in a warm place (22°C) for five days. It will now be ready to drink.
7. Store upright in a cool place.

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