Jack Horzempa Zymurgy Article on Spruce Beer

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by skivtjerry, May 3, 2018.

  1. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (509) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Our prolific poster has also just been published in Zymurgy, writing about spruce tip additions to beer. The bits about different levels of astringency in different species is very interesting. I have access to at least 4 varieties here so I'll do some taste testing in the next few weeks (not budding yet here; the last snowbank disappeared from the driveway yesterday).

    Turn on the applause sign for jack!
     
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  2. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Disciple (366) May 2, 2006 Utah

    Last summer I made a Spruce Ale with Norway Spruce tips I had picked previously picked, vacuum packed, and frozen. When I the opened the package the tips smelled like unriped mangoes. I do think freeezing helped to break open the cells and expose the spruciness. I added the tips at the end of the boil. The mango did not come through in the beer; the beer was like drinking a Christmas tree. Everybody that tried it quite liked it.

    I'll have to check out the article.
     
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  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    We have experienced a delayed spring in Southeastern PA. My next door neighbors Blue Spruce tree has small brown 'nubs' but no real growth yet.

    In a nearby Townhouse community I noticed that some of the Norway (green) Spruce trees had a few sprouts of new growth. I picked and ate one and brought one home for my wife to eat - she took a small bite (from a small tip) and threw the rest away. She just stated: "I don't like it!". The tip I ate had an astringency aspect as I detailed for last year's eating experience. Whether this 'bad taste' would manifest itself in the resulting beer I have no idea.
    Thank you for the kind thoughts. I hope that you enjoyed reading the article. The article was as much about Spruce beer brewing history as it was about the specifics of brewing a Spruce beer. I was trying to make it an interesting read for a variety of audiences.

    Cheers!
     
  4. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,212) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Premium

    @JackHorzempa
    Kudos to you, Jack, on getting published. The knowledge that you bring to these forums is appreciated. Much of it has rubbed off on me, so thank you for that too.
     
  5. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,381) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    It was a well written, fun to read article. Good job, Jack.
     
  6. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (385) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    I have a small grove of Norway spruce trees that pick 2 quarts of tips for 2 batches every year. Usually I toss them in the boil for the last 10 minutes.

    Standard Pale ale grist and hop with cascade, Columbus and centenial.
    Notes say it is better with low abv like 4.5.

    My pals love it.

    No tips till late May.
     
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  7. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    How would you describe the flavors imparted by the Norway spruce tips in the resulting beer?

    Cheers!
     
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  8. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (385) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    Well, have you ever chewed spruce gum? If so, it's like that but very subdued.

    For those who have not, very piney/ spruce taste which melds well with c hops. No real astringency if you pick the tips at the right time. Some say like a Christmas tree scent, but I never got that taste/smell.

    I've made spruce tip beer with the buds tight and the buds open almost like a fern. Tight buds give less flavor, ferns more but make sure they are soft and not firming up. Made one batch with stiff ferns/ needles and it was super bitter.
     
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  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Can you provide more guidance on "right time"? For instance, do you have a preferred size of the new growth tip (e.g., 2 inches in length)?

    FWIW, I picked up zero "Christmas tree" aroma/flavor in the beer that I brewed using Blue Spruce tips added at the end of boil.

    Cheers!
     
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  10. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (385) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    Sure, right now there are only short brown nubs, no buds, soon, the buds will start to push. They can grow anywheres from 1 to 2 inches before they open. When fully opened the ferns/soft needles can be 1 to 5 inches depending on the health of the tree and nearby competing trees, i.e. Shade and other trees competing for water/nutrients.. My largest ferns are from trees which have little or no competition.

    Fern color will be light green, much lighter than the mature needles.
     
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  11. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (385) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    And, best quality beer is made with fresh buds, in my opinion.

    When I am mashing I am picking tips,
     
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  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    I picked my tips as I was brewing as well thanks to my generous next door neighbor who granted me permission to harvest his Blue Spruce tree.

    Cheers!
     
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  13. Soneast

    Soneast Crusader (795) May 9, 2008 Wisconsin

    Very cool read. I've always toyed with the idea of doing a Spruce IPA. There's a brewery in Wisconsin that does a Spruce DIPA, that I really enjoy.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,292) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Congratulations Jack. I've got a blue spruce that's got a lot of tips on it right now. If I can pull it together maybe I'll try a brew next weekend.
     
  15. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Jim, it must be a bit warmer in your neighborhood?

    None of the Blue Spruce trees near me (next door neighbor, the Blue Spruce trees at a Townhouse community near me,...) have experienced new growth shoots yet. Maybe sometime next week?

    Cheers!

    P.S. Some to the Norway (green) Spruce trees near me have a lot of growth now.
     
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  16. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,292) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Hmmm... perhaps it's not a blue spruce. It must be a Norway spruce. At least it's not a white spruce... "the White Spruce has bluish green needles that give off an unpleasant scent of skunk when crushed". :dizzy_face:
     
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  17. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Have you tasted (eaten) any of the fresh growth tips? If so, what flavors do you pick up?

    Some folks like to add fresh growth spruce tips to their salads.

    Cheers!
     
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  18. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,292) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    They're interesting. I'd say kind of citrusy, and then there's something like mustard that lingers. The flavor isn't that strong and I'd imagine it would take quite a bit even in a 5 gallon batch.
     
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  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    I 100% agree with the "lingering" part. Ten minutes after eating a small tip I still 'feel' it in my mouth. I don't readily get the mustard association but there is indeed 'something' there.

    In contrast the tips of the Blue Spruce tree do not have this same "lingering" effect (for me).

    Cheers!
     
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  20. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,746) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Premium

    Spruce beer is not on my "things to brew soon" list, and, yet, as I was hiking through the northwoods today, thoughts of this article inspired me to reach up and grab some foliage from northern white cedar and rub it in my hands to evaluate whether I would ever want to brew with it. Maybe. Definitely maybe. But I'll probably sooner brew something closer to the historical Michelob that Jack has written about.
     
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  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    It's all good!:slight_smile:

    Cheers!
     
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  22. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,746) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Premium

    Or not. Some toxicological properties, according to wiki. But smelled sort of fruity initially, before getting medicinal.
     
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  23. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (385) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    +1 to the white spruce, they give off a cat piss like Oder when cutting them down, so I bet their tips are not pleasant
     
  24. anteater

    anteater Champion (807) Sep 10, 2012 Oregon
    Trader

    Good timing on this thread. I've been wanting to flavor some wild ale I've aged with spruce tips and went out foraging yesterday to get some Norway Spruce and some Oregon Fir tips. Since its obviously too late to use them in the boil, I'm going to experiment with both dry sprucing and also by making a tincture with gin. No clue if either will result in good beer, but at least I'll know.
     
  25. GreenKrusty101

    GreenKrusty101 Crusader (712) Dec 4, 2008 Nevada

    Congrats Jack, ...had an Alaska Spruce IPA yesterday as I was reading your Zymurgy article.
     
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  26. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    I was mowing my lawn earlier today and while doing so I passed by my next door neighbor’s Blue Spruce Tree. All that I saw (again) was brown nubs. For some reason a thought popped into my mind: I wonder what the other side of the tree looks like? To my surprise there was some fresh growth on that side (the more southerly exposed side). Below are two photographs – one from the side towards my property and the opposite side.

    Maybe I will be re-brewing my Spruce Ale sooner that I thought?

    Cheers!

    The side towards my property:
    [​IMG]

    The opposite side of the tree:
    [​IMG]

    A few of those fresh growth tips are 2 inches in length.
     
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  27. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Earlier today I brewed another batch of Spruce Ale. I brewed the same beer as last year (detailed in the article) except for one minor change – for this batch I solely used small (the newest) fresh growth spruce tips. It will be interesting to see if I notice a difference in the flavor profile of this batch of beer. Needless to say I do not know how much the flavor of fresh growth spruce tips change from year to year.

    Cheers!
     
  28. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Disciple (366) May 2, 2006 Utah

    Nice article, Jack!

    One thing I'll add about my spruce ale. Immediately after kegging it had a really rough (i.e., very unpleasant) aftertaste. It was more than astringency, but I say that was part of it. However, after sitting in the keg a while this aspect of the beer disappeared. Moral: at least with Norway Spruce, one may have to condition the beer for a while in order for it to come into its own.

    Cheers!
     
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  29. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (385) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    Making the first spruce IPA today with Norway spruce tips
     
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  30. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Please report back, I would be interested in knowing whether you experience something similar to what Mark (@utahbeerdude) discussed in the above post.

    Cheers!
     
  31. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (385) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    and its made,
    7.5 lb marris otter
    1.25 lb pilsner malt
    .25 lb victory
    .25 L10
    2 oz cascade @ 60 and 5
    1 pint norway spruce tips at @
    Notty slurry
    mash at 149

    usually use a quart of tips, but was harrowing a field while mashing then waatering a greenhouse while boiling. only had time for a pint.
     
  32. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    When did you add the spruce tips?

    Any guess what a pint weighs in ounces?

    Cheers!
     
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  33. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (385) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    No weight. Just a pint jar full but not compressed. Next batch is a qt

    Tips added for last 10 minutes
     
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  34. epk

    epk Initiate (163) Jun 10, 2008 New Jersey

    Good read, Jack!

    How good of an example is Yard's version as compared to your recipe, would you say? I know I've had it before but honestly can't recall the overall spruciness.
     
  35. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Very different beers.

    The Yards beer tastes medicinal for my palate - it reminds me of Listerine.

    As you likely took note via reading the article I had a tough time coming up with a unambiguous descriptor for the flavor profile of my batch of beer. I settled in with the term of "herbal" but frankly I have never smelled or tasted a specific herb that tasted like the Spruce Ale I brewed.

    As I mentioned above in post #27 I used a differing selection criteria for harvesting the fresh growth tips this year. FWIW when I sipped the hydrometer sample for when I measured the OG (which was 1.053) it sorta tasted like my memory of last year's batch. In a few weeks I will taste the finished beer.

    Cheers!
     
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  36. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,212) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Premium

    For those of you who are active in the trading forum and also like beers with spruce tips, here's a beer that sounds very interesting. I recently was in Oregon and picked up a beer publication (Dec-Jan edition of Northwest Brewing News) that did a tasting of Winter Tree, Needle and Spruce beers, and the best beer in this 'competition' was King of the Forest from Wolf Tree Brewing (what an appropriate name!). https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/46155/309599/ It is described as an Oud Bruin with spruce tips that is aged in pinot noir barrels. Doesn't that sound delicious and interesting? The tasting panel gave it a 4.5 out of 5 score. If I were a trader I might seek out this beer. But maybe next year when I visit Oregon again I'll see if I can find it.
     
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  37. epk

    epk Initiate (163) Jun 10, 2008 New Jersey

    Gotcha, thanks. I'm thinking I might make some sort of spruce tip tea first and dose a pint of some fairly balanced PA just to see what's going on. If I'm liking it, I have a juniper rye recipe I tend to brew in the fall that could work, cutting out the juniper, and possibly just add spruce tea right to the keg. Spruce, juniper, and the like - they all seem very harvesty and fall like to me (despite the Spruce tips being ready now).

    I'll have to check out that website you recommend, since it will not be until later in the year. Have a few brews in mind between now and then (especially with my recent Hops47 purchase in mind :wink:), I'll report back if I make any progress with the spruce tips.
     
  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    You could harvest them now and then vacuum pack and freeze to use later.

    Cheers!
     
  39. epk

    epk Initiate (163) Jun 10, 2008 New Jersey

    Good idea and my vacuum sealer just came in last week! I've been looking for things to seal other than hops. Now to find a spruce...
     
  40. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,647) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium

    Boston Beer Company has a new label design for a Spruce Lager (I do not know when this beer will be released):

    [​IMG]

    I look forward to trying this beer.

    Cheers!