Spruce tips

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Buggies, May 13, 2012.

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  1. Buggies

    Buggies Initiate (0) Jul 4, 2008 Pennsylvania

    I really want to do a beer with spruce tips. I was just kinda searching for some general tips, advice, or guidelines I could use to brew a beer with spruce tips.

    Anyone have any experience with using spruce tips? Whats the time of year when I need to harvest? I live in the north east, so what variety of spruce should I use? And as always, is there any warnings or dangers with trying to brew with spruce tips? And I guess lastly, at what point do I introduce the tips in the process?
  2. curly31989

    curly31989 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2010 Colorado

    I haven't brewed with them, but you should check out Sproose Joose. http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/23018/69642

    I was in Wisconsin last week and spoke to some storeowners who are friends with the brewer. According to them, the beer changes drastically with the seasons. Right now, the spruce is recognizable but overwhelming... by late fall, the spruce is dominant and turns the beer to pine sol. They absolutely love the aroma and apparently the customers do too because its their top seller at the shop.

    On another note, spruce, fir, etc. all have different characteristics. My friend recently returned from working at Noma in Copenhagen and they use fir in several dishes. He said it has a lemongrass taste to it that goes incredibly well with food. Here's an article about the place.

    In short, the type of tree, season, and location probably all influence the aroma that will added to your beer. I'd say go for it.
  3. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,621) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    I was eyeballing my spruce trees' tips while mowing the lawn yesterday, but I will not be brewing my first spruce beer anytime soon. Too much on my plate right now (brewing plans and otherwise). Still, curious about techniques and results, should you end up brewing one.
  4. nathanjohnson

    nathanjohnson Initiate (0) Aug 5, 2007 Vermont

    I brewed a scottish ale with spruce tips last year. I used 5oz new growth blue spruce tips (at 10min) and it was way too resiny. I would cut that in half. Definitely recommend new growth, and in fact I just looked at mine this morning, and they are loosing their papery coverings right now, which means that they will hit peak shortly. Hope that helps.
  5. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,621) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    Might be less risky to use an alcohol tincture approach to add spruce essence to taste at packaging.
    RWNewhouse likes this.
  6. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (270) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    Brewed this last May.
    Spruce presence was quite aggressive when young then mellowed nicely after 12 weeks in the bottle.

    Norway spruce tips were between four and six inches.
    Avoid newest of new growth as they don't contribute much flavor.

    If this recipe were made again...I'd cut the 15" spruce tip addition in half.

    Estimated OG: 1.054 SG
    Estimated Color: 5 SRM
    Estimated IBU: 39.2 IBU
    Brewhouse Efficiency: 65%
    Boil Time: 65 Minutes

    2-Row 90%
    20L 5%
    White Wheat Malt 5%

    Northern Brewer [8.1 %] (60") 23 IBU
    Northern Brewer [8.1 %] (30") 8 IBU
    Northern Brewer [8.1 %] (20") 5 IBU
    Northern Brewer [8.1 %] (10") 3 IBU

    1 dry pt Spruce tips (Boil 15")
    0.5 oz Spruce tips (Boil 2")

    White Labs #WLP002
    Mash 60" @149°F
  7. Buggies

    Buggies Initiate (0) Jul 4, 2008 Pennsylvania

    Thanks for the input everyone. I will have to do some research I guess to see when the right time would be to harvest the tips in my area. Hell that might even take experimentation I guess.

    HerbMeowing, I see you added to the boil. That must be the easiest. I've read recipes that called for the bottom of the mashtun to be lines with the tips. I've even seen articles adding them to the hot wort either in the whirlpool or something along the lines of a hopback.

    I would try the tincture, but man I bet that makes it a harsher, more resiny tastes.
  8. WanderingFool

    WanderingFool Poo-Bah (1,807) Aug 7, 2002 Massachusetts

    I spoke with a brewer in NH a few years ago about spruce tips. He makes a beer every year for his pub and told me you have to get the tips in the spring before they open up. Also don't use them if they smell like cat pee and add them to the end of the boil.

    I harvested several ounces of spruce tips from a tree in my yard a couple years ago and froze them for a Christmas beer. Unfortunately, when I defrosted them they smelled like cat pee. Someday I'm going to brew a springtime spruce beer if I can find the right tree.
  9. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,621) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin
    Supporter Subscriber

    Harsher than boiling? Doesn't seem likely to me. In any event, if you make it and it seems harsh, you have the option of not using it, which isn't an option if you but add to to hot wort. Good luck.
  10. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (270) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    Two things.
    1) The batch size for this recipe is 2.5G.
    2) The recipe evolved after reviewing dozens of recipes from both near and far. It incorporates elements common to most recipes.
  11. incutrav

    incutrav Initiate (0) Jan 16, 2007 Minnesota

    Ive brewed a Spruce IPA about ten times over the past year. Changes everytime as some have said, depending on the moisture content in the needles. Spruce tips add very little IMO, as they taste like grass. Older growth needles have been the ticket i have found. I will grab some needles and chew on them, gives a fair indication of what you might get. I usually add several 'pints' of needles at flameout. They actually add a fairly sweet component to the beer. I usually couple with Simcoe for dry hops, so its tough to tell how much aroma i get from the actual spruce, and what is coming from the Simcoe.

    Dont go too crazy with the pine though, i tried to do a 'Super Spruce DIPA' earlier this year, and it was so resiny that it was undrinkable even after six months in the keg.

    Pretty cheap brew, as I can brew a hoppy IPA with 4oz of hops+spruce
  12. Buggies

    Buggies Initiate (0) Jul 4, 2008 Pennsylvania

    I see a few stores sell "spruce essence". Any experience with this?

    At this point, I think I'm just going to go for it. Hit the woods this weekend, and grab some tips. I'll brew HerbMeowing's recipe I think. Whats the worse that can happen right?

    Thanks everyone for the input.
  13. toastw

    toastw Initiate (0) Aug 16, 2008 Texas

    I'd be very careful cooking with a soft wood like spruce/fir/pine. It's gonna get oily/resiny. And just a little bit will get noticed. Despite what I'm reading here, if I were to do it, I'd be very tempted to cut it in the spring and then dry it (six months minimum) out before brewing with it.

    And I agree with pweiss about considering an intinction. You can control how much you add that way. Plus, I think it'd definitely be less harsh than boiling it with your wort.
  14. carteravebrew

    carteravebrew Zealot (509) Jan 21, 2010 Colorado

    I used spruce essence in a porter one time. The essence bottle said to use something crazy like 1 tsp per gallon, which common sense should have told me that's way too much. Probably should have used 1 tsp for the whole 5 gallon batch. I choked it down but man, it was pretty terrible. I'd go for the real thing.
  15. blackhusky

    blackhusky Initiate (130) May 16, 2011 Wisconsin

    We have brewed the Sproose Joose now for several years as a homebrewer before opening our own brewery. We just use it like a late hop addition. Without giving everything away I would say don't overthink it. I harvest the spruce the day I brew. After I make my first hop addition I get a 5 gallon bucket and some clippers and the dog and I go out in the woods and clip some spruce. our og is 1076, IBU's 100 or so SRM 11.

    Hope that helps. email me at blackhuskybrewing@wildblue.net if you need help

  16. skivtjerry

    skivtjerry Zealot (524) Mar 10, 2006 Vermont

    Pick 'em right now and put them in the freezer; make a spruce beer whenever it's convenient - just like using hops..
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