Ah - Spruce Beer!
. . has been brewed for centuries - found to contain sufficient vitamin
C to prevent scurvy - George Washington's troops were given a daily
ration of Spruce Beer.
My discovery of Spruce Beer - came about during my research into
historical brewing. In days of old the mash vessel did not have nifty metal
screening devices - the common practice was to use straw or evergreens
in the the bottom of the vessel as a means of separating the grain from
the sweet wort. I had commonly used straw and pine boughs - both of
which worked very well in the mash tun - but provided little to no flavor
to the beer. Spruce on the other hand - when used in the mash tun -
imparts a delightful citrusy/spruce character to your beer.
I have found that a 'grocery bag full' (a historical measure) of spruce
tips (about 7#) - works well in 10 gallon batches with a decent
gravity - over 1.060. Style makes little difference as I have brewed pale
ales, porters and stouts all with pleasant results. My latest batches have
been made with Belgian yeast. I have alway use some hops for bittering
and flavor and let the spruce take care of the aroma.
Most of my historic brewing takes place in the late summer. By then the
'new growth' is about 6 to 8 inches long.
I have, even been known, to used the tips of 'used' spruce Christmas
trees - I try to pick the ones with the lease tinsel.
My experience has been with blue and white spruce trees - as that is
what I have in my yard. The blue spruce having more flavor.
The two trees that I would like to try are black spruce and Sitka
spruce - anybody have access to these?
I have always used my spruce in the mash - feeling that the lower
temperatures minimize the risk of pulling out the resiny turpentine
characters. Speaking of turpentine character - DO NOT USE the milky bottles of
Spruce Essence found in the home brew supply shops. This is not a
pleasant flavor - though I have heard that it is drinkable after 1 or 2
I have also tasted very nice examples of spruce beers made by club
members (Tom Roache?) who added a small quantity of spruce tips at the end
of the boil.
At Big Brew last week someone shared a Short's Imperial Spruce India
Pilsner - Wow!
This is part of their Imperial series:http://www.shortsbrewing.com/imperial_beer_series.html
In these day of high priced hops and shortages - spruce is due to make
Drink more Spruce Beer!