Old Time Spruce ale

Norway spruce (Picea abies)

I am quite glad that I got the time to try out this recipe.  I would have been pretty disappointed, seeing as there is really only one a brief period of one to weeks in the spring that can have to make the recipe the best it can be. The main ingredient and flavouring in this beer are the fresh, tender new shoots of spruce (Picea) trees that emerge in late spring. They are there best when fully expanded to forming a weak shoot. This way there is the most new growth available at the latest possible time from when it changes from soft to woody. So this is a pretty small window, but I had the chance to seize it.

This recipe was once again taken from Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, and I made 2 adjustments to it.

2 gallons water
2 pounds molasses (I substituded 2 pounds of malt extract)
6 ounces fresh spruce tips
brewing yeast
+ I also added about an ounce of medicinal grade hops for added bitterness.

Brewing the spruce tips and hops

I first converted and reduced all of these ingredients to encorporate the limitations of my 2.9 litre water jug which is my largest available fermenter. As soon as I got the 2.9 litres of water to boil, I threw in about 2 ounces of fresh spruce tips and hops . They quickly cooked and begin to dissolve into a paste within the pot. These boiled for 1 hour, and then after I removed the pot from the burner I poured in the half litre of malt extract and stirred until it was dissolved. Then, I placed the pot, covered, outside for hours, and hours, and hours. When I thought it was cool enough (room temperature) I brought it inside, poured it into a sanitized jug and then pitched the yeast. On went the airlock and into the inside of my closet covered in a sweater.

Stirring in the malt extract

* Update: 4 days into the fermentation process, I noticed that there was no action from the yeast at all. I am pretty sure that when I pitched the yeast, the water was not cool enough for it to survive and so they died. So, figuring I exacuted all of my yeast before they could do anything, I added some more yeast. The next morning, I discovered that the beer had backed up through the airlock and was now frothing all over the inside of my closet. Pretty fun stuff. But I am also pretty happy, because this bastard is fermenting like mad and I am hoping that means it will make me one dandy spruce beer.

The backed up air-lock and super foamy carboy

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5 Responses

  1. Looks pretty good Tom! I’m curious as to how this spruce beer will taste. I think I’ve had one before, but I’m pretty sure that it had a minimal amount of spruce in it because I didn’t notice anything unique about it.

    Cookie sheet under the fermenter!! Always!!

    You should get yourself a glass carboy already. Keep on the lookout at the reuse center and kijiji.

  2. I think 6 ounces will be plenty to bring out some piney-ness in this brew. No scurvy for Tom!

    Cookie sheet is a good idea. I’ve been putting them in garbage bags…

  3. Yeah, I also placed mine inside of a garbage bag, but a cookie sheet would look a whole lot better and be less of a sticky hastle later.

    I would have gotten a carboy or bucket already, but since I am moving soon I decided I might as well wait until I am settled in before I get any more crap that Iam just going to have to relocate. But for sure I will upgrade, I want to start making bigger batches.

  4. Nice work Tim!
    Your recipe says that you swapped molasses for malt extract, and then in your description it says you used some malt extract..

    • Sorry if that’s confusing Jim, but I the original recipe used molasses, I meant to say that I swapped that in favour of malt extract.

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