Brew Day – The Spruce is Loose

This is a recipe that I was inspired to create following a tasting at Craggy Brewing (now closed) in Asheville, North Carolina during my honeymoon in May 2012.  It had a very strong spruce flavor and aroma that no one except for my wife, Hillary, seemed to enjoy.  I didn’t really give too much thought to brewing one myself because I had no idea where to obtain the spruce.

A few years later while reading up on beer recipes on various internet forums, I came across recipes for spruce beer that also linked to a vendor, Spruce On Tap. A four ounce package of spruce tips for $16 seemed like a good opportunity to try something new. And thus began: The Spruce is Loose. 

Here’s the recipe for my first attempt at brewing The Spruce is Loose:

Grain Bill

  • 5 lbs Marris Otter (82.61%)
  • 25 lbs Munich Malt (10.87%)
  • 5 lbs Cara-Pils (4.35%)
  • 25 lbs Crystal 60 (2.17%)

Hops

  • 1 oz Cascade FWH (AA 8.60%)
  • 1 oz Cascade 10 minutes (AA 8.60%)
  • 1 oz Cascade 0 minutes (AA 8.60%)

Spruce

  • 4 oz Spruce Tips 15 minutes

Yeast

  • WLP-001 (California Ale) – 1.0 L starter via stir plate

Mash

  • Single Infusion Medium Body
    • Mash In – 18 quarts at 166 F (Target Mash of 153 F) for 60 minutes
    • Sparge – 4.5 gallons at 168 F

Fermentation

  • Three weeks at 64F

Brew day went really well despite the cold and dreary weather. It also gave Hillary a chance to play around with the GoPro camera she got for Christmas. Checkout these photos:

Spruce1

Brewing equipment and ingredients gathered. Notice the frozen spruce tips?

Spruce2

Spruce tips have defrosted and are ready to be added to the boil. These had a fantastic aroma, as you can imagine.

Spruce3

Spruce tips about to take a nice, warm boil.

Spruce5

In they go!

Spruce5

Here, you can see the spruce tips boiling away.

After fermentation, I grabbed a sample to taste while kegging it up.

Tasting / Comments at Kegging

  • Sample is amber in color with excellent clarity. The aroma is toasty with moderate grapefruit and citrus aroma.  There is a subtle piney-ness in the background.  The flavor is light toasty and bready up front followed by moderate citrus hops flavor and finishes with a moderately sprucey.  I’m very pleased with how balanced the beer is so far.  I was very concerned that this would be a spruce bomb, however, it’s actually very enjoyable.  A few weeks in the keg to clarify and carbonate should produce a very nice beer.

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