The Spruce Tip Experience

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: October 9, 2018

It is said that Spruce Tips impart various flavors associated with the needle buds that are found on spruce trees. Spruce tips impart a great combination of citrus, pine, resinous, floral, and even cola-like flavor.

The history of using spruce tips takes us back to indigenous North American people. Jacques Cartier and his explorers used spruce tips while exploring what is now Quebec in 1535 as Derek Ebberts writes in his book, To Brew or Not to Brew: A Brief History of Beer in Canada. The use for these spruce tips was to ward off scurvy.  Spruce tips typically are harvested in the spring. It is helpful to freeze them, much like hops, if they are not used immediately.

Brewing with spruce tips

spruce

When brewing with spruce tips, it is worth noting that a little goes a long way. I received a package of Spruce Tips from Alaskan Brewing Company out of Juneau, Alaska for one of their homebrew competitions. The competitions were pretty simple: receive a package of Spruce Tips that have been harvested by Alaskan Brewing Company, brew a beer with them, and then send ALBC two bottles of your beer for the competition.

After reading up on this unknown addition to my beer, I discovered that spruce tips have some wonderful citrus character to it. The beer that I brewed came out better than I expected. The spruce tips were certainly noticeable and gave the beer a terrific piney character all throughout the beer.

I measured out my brewing salts since I was using RO water for this particular batch and needed to build the minerals back up. I used the following:

Gypsum CaSo4                5.6g

Table Salt NaCL               0 g

Epsom Salt MgSO4         9.9g

Calcium Chloride CaCl    2.9g

Baking Soda NaHCO3      2.3g

Chalk CaCO3                     5.4g

 

Obadiah’s Tip Recipe

Malts                               Percentage

Maris Otter                     83%

White Wheat                    4%

Munich Light 10L             9%

Victory Malt                      4%

Hops                    Type       Usage      Time          AA       IBU

Chinook                Pellet       Boil         60 min.      13        40.5

Cascade                Pellet       Boil         20 min        5.8      10.9.

Equinox                Pellet       Boil         15 min.       13       20.1

Simcoe                 Pellet        Boil         10 min.       13       14.7

Fresh Spruce Tips                 Boil         10 min.        0           0

Citra                      Pellet        Boil           0 min.       12          0

Cascade                Pellet        Boil          3 days        5.8         0

Citra                      Pellet        Boil          3 days        12         0

Yeast

Fermentis Safale US-05

Batch Size     5.5 Gallons

Boil Size         7.5 Gallons

OG       1.062                Actual OG 1.070

FG        1.012

Color    7.3SRM

Efficiency  75%

Bitterness     86.1

Alcohol          6.4%        Actual 7.6%

spruce
Measuring out grains the day before brew day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spruce
These citrus and pine forward hops really complemented the spruce tips.

 

Tasting Notes

spruce

Aroma: High citrus notes right up front in the aroma with pine in the background.  Low to medium malt notes that are hidden from the citrusy and piney characteristics.

Appearance: Very clear. Nice white foam cap that lasted throughout the drinking of this beer. Light white lacing throughout the beer.

Flavor: First flavor notes are of citrus and pine with malt reaching in the middle of the palate. The beers ends with nice piney resinous that is lasting and lingering.

Mouthfeel: Fullness with a perception of a creaminess. Carbonation is good and lasting throughout the beer. The lingering citrus and pine notes help to balance with the malt backbone of this beer.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.