Originally we had planned for JD to come to July’s meeting to launch both the of the beers but spruce beer, like any other beer, is only ready when it’s ready and the DIPA needed a little extra time to ferment out.
So instead it was August before we welcome JD and fellow Wild Weather brewer Chris to our meeting where we had both beers on tap. While JD told us all about the history of spruce in beer going back to Native America/ Canada, how he first got into spruce beer and his findings using it over the years, we sat back and enjoyed his work.
First up we tried Sprucie Bonus. For me personally, pairing spruce tips with crystal and Red X malts really brought out the cherry cola flavour from the spruce without overpowering the citrus character of the Ahtanum. While it was quite a hazy pint (it was fermented with low flocculating London ESB yeast) it was an enjoyable beer.
Next up we had Spruce Almighty (or Sprucie boi as I have come to affectionately know it by) which was a different beast altogether. It was piney, resinous, sticky and didn’t drink at all like its 11% abv. The carbonation was slightly low but I have since enjoyed this from a can which had a bit more in there. We were big fans of this beer, which was obvious by the dent we put in the keg that night.
We wrapped up the evening discussing other possible styles of beer that we could add spruce tips to, exchanging bad puns for future beer names (hands off Spruce Banner – that one’s mine) and making some plans to help harvest the tips again next year but this time we will keep some a-side for RAB members to experiment with.
Just to wrap-up I thought I’d summarise a few key things I picked up about brewing with spruce tips:
- They can give you a diverse range of aroma and flavours depending on what malts and hops you pair them with
- They can only be harvested during a narrow window over May and June
- They can be frozen but for maximum impact they are best used fresh
- They should be used like hops and added to beer during the boil (for both Sprucie Bonus and Spruce Almighty the spruce was added with 30 minutes left in the boil)
- JD reported that the spruce aroma and flavour only becomes apparent after fermentation is close to completion – possibly due to the sugars masking the character or some sort of biotransformation from the yeast
Many thanks to JD for sharing his time, knowledge and passion for spruce with us!