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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: speed on March 22, 2010, 10:44:58 PM

Title: spruce tips
Post by: speed on March 22, 2010, 10:44:58 PM
has anybodys spruce trees started producing new growth yet? i want to make a spruce beer but our trees just haven't started growing yet.
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: MDixon on March 22, 2010, 11:29:12 PM
I use Juniper with the berries for one of my beers. We don't have any spruce, but if yours are not large enough, do you have an apartment complex somewhere nearby which might "donate" some branches  ;)
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: Jeff Renner on March 23, 2010, 02:54:14 PM
Our local spruce beer expert, Mike O'Brien, recommends using last year's new growth.  He lays them on the bottom of his mash tun and adds the grain and water on top, so that the subtle flavor is extracted during the mash.  You'd never guess what the flavor is - it sure isn't Christmas-tree like, but it's wonderful.

Mike reckons that a grocery bag of tips is about right for a five gallon batch.  He does say, though, that his spruce trees are looking a little weird lately.
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: Jeff Renner on March 23, 2010, 02:58:27 PM
Here is a recent email Mike sent to our club (Ann Arbor Brewers Guild) in answer to a question.  Reposted here without his permission, but I know that he won't care as he loves spreading the gospel of spruce beer.


Mike wrote:

I 'discovered' spruce beer while I was putting together recipes for my historic brewing demonstrations.

My historic mash tun is half of a whiskey barrel with a hole in the bottom. To separate the grain from the wort I would use straw or pine branches - these don't add any flavor but work pretty well.

One day I used spruce branches - WOW

The key to using spruce is - not to boil it!
All my spruce goes into the mash - and I use lots of it! - 5 to 7# per 10 gallons.
I use - 'any old spruce' - mostly white (less flavorful) or blue (more flavorful).
I usually use the last 3 tips on a tree. These tips are usually 4 to 6" long. I leave them attached to each other - as this makes for a better - more stable - filter bed in my mash.

If you use an 'old X-mas tree' - make sure it does not have tinsel!

If I were going to do this in an extract batch I would steep the spruce boughs in the water - before adding the extract - at between 140 - 165F for 30 to 60 min. Remove the spruce before adding the extract. Proceed as usual.

Spruce can be used in most any style - my favorites to date would be - Belgian Spruce IPA, Hoppy Spruce Stout, Sour Smoked Spruce Beer.

If you have a smaller quantity of spruce - some brewers in the group - have had success adding a pound or less at the end of the boil - steeped for a few minutes before cooling.

I have never done much with the 'young new growth' - when I chew on it - it has more of a green grassy flavor - and have never had enough to try by it's self.

Trimming spruce trees will stunt their growth as mine are not 'spreading out' much any more - that is why I am using more white spruce these day than blue spruce.
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: denny on March 23, 2010, 03:57:25 PM
Good advice, Jeff!  The one time I made spruce beer, I boiled the spruce, and it turned out tasting like Vick's Vap-O-Rub and it took forever to work my way through 5 gal. of it.  Nobody else would drink it!
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: bluesman on March 23, 2010, 04:22:55 PM
Very interesting spruce tip Jeff...no pun intended...thanks. I've never tried a spruce beer...are there any commercial examples ?
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: denny on March 23, 2010, 04:56:55 PM
The best one I've found is from Siletz Brewing, but I don't think it's widely available.
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: speed on March 23, 2010, 11:54:33 PM
thanks for all the replys, i have 2 colorado blue spruce trees in my front yard that are about 40-50 feet tall so i have plenty of tips. can't wait to make this beer. does anybody have the recipe for the hoppy spruce stout, that sounds yummy
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: MDixon on March 24, 2010, 12:18:42 PM
I started thinking about commercial examples and remembered one from Yards, Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale, my notes say "interesting, but not one I would have again".

For the FWIW file, with juniper I steep the branches in hot water for several hours and then use the water for all the operations. Sounds like spruce could work the same way, especially if only put in the mash.
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: jgourd on March 24, 2010, 12:44:56 PM
As a kid living in Canada, we used to have spruce beer.  But not the alcoholic kind.  It's like a root beer in that case.  It was clear like Sprite but cloudy.  Tasted like a Christmas tree.  I've always wanted to try to make some of that stuff.  But no spruce trees in my area I'm afraid.  Louisiana is too hot.
Title: Re: spruce tips
Post by: Jeff Renner on March 24, 2010, 01:08:42 PM
There is definitely no Christmas tree character in spruce beer the way that Mike makes it.

I've also had one made by Bosco's in Tennessee.  Owner Chuck Skypeck brought it to a conference, maybe MCAB in Cleveland.  It's sort of reminds me of a mild lemony flavor, but not at all sour.

Alaskan's winter beer also has Sitka spruce tips in it, but I've not had it.