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
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
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
Fermentis Safale US-05
Batch Size 5.5 Gallons
Boil Size 7.5 Gallons
OG 1.062 Actual OG 1.070
Alcohol 6.4% Actual 7.6%
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.
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.