I read an interesting post recently on spruce beer. There were variants that were brewed using parts of spruce trees and others that may have drawn on different meanings of ‘spruce’ – well-dressed beer where the wort was boiled for ten hours or so until very concentrated (OG > 1000!) and the result after fermentation was thick, black and sweet.
The penny dropped and I realised this was the black beer I had discovered when I was a student – used mixed with other drinks (often just soft ones) or in cooking. Unfortunately it also turns out that the last UK manufacturer, Mathers, ended production just a few years ago. Ah well… at least I know what it was now!