Spruce Beer / Callibogus

A few more notes about Spruce Beer.

First, the good people at Bidgood’s supermarket in the Goulds have published a recipe for making Spruce Beer at home. Click here to go to their page. 

I was also checking out [W J. Kirwin, G.M. Story, and J. D.A. Widdowson (editors)] The Dictionary of Newfoundland English (Toronto, 1990), which is online here (see the entry for spruce and spruce beer here) and I found some interesting usages of Spruce beer. From a savour from scurvy to starting fights and dances which “only the priest” was able to handle, Spruce beer has a distinguished, but often forgotten, role in Newfoundland’s history. Check out the entry for more!

What I found particularly interesting was the recipe for spruce beer from Sir Joseph Banks which appears in Sir Joseph Banks, Joseph Banks in Newfoundland and Labrador 1766: His Diary, Manuscripts and Collections, edited by A.M. Lysaght (University of California Press, 1971), pages 139-140.

Basically, his instructions were to take a 12 gallon copper kettle and “fill it as full of the Boughs of Black spruce as it will hold.” Then press them down, fill with water and boil it until the “rind” of the spruce will easily come off. This, he says, will “waste it about one third take them out.” To this spruce-infused water, he now says to add 1 gallon of molasses (“Melasses”) and boil until disolved. In a half hogshead (google tells me this is around 120 liters, so I’m guessing it’s just a big fermenter) combine 19 gallons of water and the mixture of spruce water and molasses. To finish “work it with Barm & Beergrounds & in Less than a week it is fit to Drink!” Barm is just the foam that forms on top of fermenting beverages, like beer and wine, so that’s the yeast source I’m guessing. That’s it!

He goes on to say (this is from the book, not the dictionary entry) that it’s a pretty weak liquor and that three kinds of “Flip Cald” can be made from it:” “Callibogus, Egg Calli & King Calli.” The term “Calibogus” is actually in Merriam Webster, but spelled with only one “l” (I’ll stick with Sir Joseph’s spelling). Callibogus, he states, is made from adding rum, brandy, or gin to the spruce beer. Egg Calli is made by heating Callibogus with egg and sugar, while King Calli is made by adding “spirit to the contents of the copper as soon as it is ready to put into the cask and drinking it hot.” I’m guessing the last one is just unfermented spruce beer combined with rum, brandy, or gin for those too impatient to wait a week. Can’t beat homemade Callibogus!


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Filed under Callibogus, History, Recipe, Spruce Beer

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