Spruce Beer

Ever since I came across the spruce beer recipe in The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian I’ve wanted to try to make a batch.  Every time I go to the home brew shop, I notice the little bottles of spruce essence that they have for sale.  I admit that I was tempted to just by the essence and use that, but I decided that it was probably a better idea to just get the real thing and go from there.

Spring here in the Northeast has been cold and, living in the middle of a huge city, it would be hard to run across spruce in general, let alone the spruce tips that were what I was really after.  Luckily for me, I walk through Central Park quite a bit and there are two Norway Spruce trees that I walk past frequently.  I’ve been waiting for the new growth to show, and last week the spruce tips looked ready to harvest on one of the trees.  I didn’t want to be greedy so I made sure to only lightly pick around and not to take too much from one area.  I would guess that I got about two ounces of super-fresh spruce tips to add to my next brew!

I was trying to stay pretty close to the recipe in the Joy of Home Brewing but the recipe was for a 5 gallon batch and was extract only.  I decided to tweak it a bit and make a mini mash so that I could get the gravity I wanted and bring it up to a 2.75 gallon batch with only one can of extract.  My favorite beer lately has been Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog, so I tried to put a bit of that character into this recipe as well although this one is going to have a decent amount more IBU’s than that.  If you haven’t tries Old Brown Dog and you’re a fan of American Brown Ales, I would highly recommend finding some.  As a side note, I added some leftover UK bittering hops to the first hop addition to bring up the IBU’s.  I probably wouldn’t do this again since I’m trying to make and American Brown Ale but I will see how it turns out.

  • 3.3 Lbs of Briess Traditional Dark Liquid Malt Extract (1.035 specific gravity per pound per gallon)
  • 1 Lb US Two-Row
  • .25 Lb Crystal 120L
  • .25 Lb Munich 10L
  • .25oz Challenger 7% AA & .5oz Willamette 4.5% AA @ 60 minutes
  • 2oz Spruce Tips and 1/2 Whirlfloc tablet @ 15 minutes
  • .25oz Willamette @ 7 minutes
  • .25oz Willamette @ 1 minute
  • US-05 dry yeast

I mini mashed the grains in half a gallon of water @152 F for 60 minutes.  I added the full amount of LME at the beginning of the boil since I was doing a full volume boil.  It turned out darker than I expected, but I’m excited for this one.  The spruce however wasn’t very fragrant and I’m worried that maybe the flavor and aroma will be lost in the final product.  Next time I will either have to find more fragrant spruce, or add a bunch more.  Cleaning out the bottom of the boil pot after racking the wort to the fermenter was pretty nasty.  It looked like someone ripped up a christmas tree and ground the pieces into the mud.  SG was 1.055.

The smell coming out of the fermenter is great and I can’t wait to taste this one.  Two and a half days later and the primary fermentation is done.  Tomorrow I’ll rack it to a secondary and let it sit for another 10-15 days.


One thought on “Spruce Beer

  1. Pingback: Spruce Tip Ale at Brewbecue 2013 | The Mostly Harmless Brewing Co.

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