Every May, small, bright green shoots of spruce trees sprout from trees as a universal sign of regrowth and rebirth in Spring. And every year, brewers snatch up those spruce tips to create delicious, piney beer.
Spruce Tip Ales have a long history. Back when settlers first came to the US, they used Spruce Tip Ale to avoid or fight off scurvy. When collected at the right time, they add tasty notes of woodsy pine, citrus, potentially even wine grapes or red berries. Thanks to some of their bittering properties, spruce tips can even replace hops in these ales. Hops were in limited quantity for them, so spruce tips were a welcome and needed substitute.
In foraging for these tiny tree bits is as easy as looking for what’s easy to pick, and grabbing the younger, soft green spruce tips. Older branches produce tougher sprouts, so the newer the better. Let us know how your concoction of todays’ Spruce Tip Ale recipe turned out on social media using the hashtag #BrewWithBSG!
For 6 gallons (23L)
- (87%) 13.24 lb (6 kg) Rahr Premium Pilsner
- (7%) 1.1 lb (.5 kg) Weyermann® Carafoam
- (3%) .44 lb (.2 kg) Weyermann® Acidulated
- (3%) .44 lb (.2 kg) Weyermann® Melanoidin
- 24 oz (681 g) Spruce tips x 90 min boil
- 1 Whirlfloc T tablet x 15 min boil
- 2 x 11.5 g Fermentis Saflager S-23 (or substitute 1 x 11.5 g Fermetis SafAle S04)
- Original Gravity: 1.055 (13.5 P)
- Final Gravity: 1.010 (2.5 P)
- ABV: 5.25 %
- IBU: n/a no hops used
- SRM: 5.1
- Once you have enough spruce tips to brew, they can be used immediately or simply pop them in the freezer till you are ready to drop them into the brew pot. The flavor of the Spruce is transferred into the wort by boiling in exactly the same way as hops transfer flavor and bitterness, and aroma into the beer as you brew.
- The length of time that you will need to boil this beer will depend directly on the quantity of spruce tips that you use and its flavor. You need to sip the wort to see how the flavor progresses and end the boil only when perfection has been achieved. A standard minimum 90-minute boil is recommended.
- You can also boil a large quantity of branches in a kettle for hours until a sterile spruce concentrate is created, in which you can can while hot and later used to adjust the level of spruce flavor post fermentation during conditioning before kegging or bottling. What we want is a delicate spruce flavor & malt aroma.
- Adjust pH in the mash to between 5.2-5.4
- Infusion Mash at 153 F (67 C) x 75 min, then mash out at 157 F (75 C) x 10 minutes
- Boil spruce for 90 minutes, taste as you go and stop the boil when you like the flavor.
- Chill the wort to 59 -60 F (15 C) and ferment at 59 F (14 C). If you have trouble doing a cold fermentation please substitute with a more temperature tolerant Ale yeast such as the Fermentis SafAle S04. If you choose to use an Ale yeast, then chill and then ferment at 68 f (20 C). This yeast will give a nice clean nose that will let the spruce shine. When using lager yeasts, it is important to use 2 packs for a 6-gallon batch in order to assure a rapid onset of the fermentation. With Ale yeast only one pack is necessary.
- The length of time it will take to ferment will depend upon the fermentation temperature. Warmer temperature causes the beer to ferment more rapidly. The fermentation will take between 6 to 10 days, once fermentation is completed, place the beer in secondary.