Spruce On Tap - The spruce is loose!

Welcome to Spruce on Tap! We supply spruce tips (also known as spruce boughs) for the beer brewing community. Spruce tips are the new growth on Spruce pine trees that are harvested and used in the brewing process to enhance flavors and aromas. Take a look at what we have to offer and then try some in your next brew!

NEWS:

Spruce On Tap works with Goose Island Beer Co for a Scandinavian Treat - Gran Gås:
http://www.gooseisland.com/pages/gran_g_s/314.php

Spruce On Tap works with Riff Raff Brewing Co - Spruce Juice:
http://riffraffbrewing.com/ 

 

History and Brewing with Spruce Tips: 

Spruce tips have been used in the brewing process for hundreds of years. In fact, they were one of the main additions in beer before people learned about brewing with hops! Spruce tips add a fresh, bright aroma. The fresh, tender tips have a mellow pine scent and a crisp flavor. A number of refreshing flavors are associated with spruce-flavored beverages, ranging from floral, citrusy, and fruityto cola-like flavors to resinous and piney. This diversity in flavor mainly comes from the choice of spruce species, the season in which the needles are harvested, and the manner of preparation. Lighter, more citrus-like flavors are produced by using the bright green fresh spring growth before the new needles and twigs harden and become woody, which is right when we pick ‘em!

The fresh shoots of many spruces and pines are a natural source of vitamin C (which helps the stability of the finished beer).  Captain Cook made alcoholic sugar-based spruce beer during his sea voyages in order to prevent scurvy in his crew. Recently spruce has been used as a flavoring ingredient in commercial beer such as Alba Scots Pine Ale and Alaskan Brewing Company's Winter Ale and Wigram Brewing Company's Spruce Beer, which is based on Captain Cooks first beer brewed in New Zealand in 1773.

Alcoholic spruce beer was common in the colonial United States and eastern Canada. See our recipe from 1796 in the recipes section (though it is not exactly beer)! The Daily Order for the Highland Regiment in North America (early to mid 1800’s) stipulated that: "Spruce beer is to be brewed for the health and conveniency of the troops which will be served at prime cost. Five quarts of molasses will be put into every barrel of Spruce Beer. Each gallon will cost nearly three coppers."

Our Harvesting Process and Ethics: At Spruce On Tap we love brewing, but we love trees too. We are adamant about making sure the trees are not over harvested and that the spruce tips are only harvested in areas where the spruce tree is thriving. We recognize that trees are the source of our fresh air and they are beautiful to boot, and we strive to protect them. All spruce tips are Wild Harvested in primarily the San Juan Mountain Range of southern Colorado, in the San Juan National Forest. We harvest both Colorado Blue Spruce tips and Engelmann Spruce tips. We harvest the spruce tips when they first begin to emerge from their brown, papery casings each spring. At this stage they are very tender and have the brightest flavor with slight amounts of resin and citrus.

Storage & Preservation: We harvest the spruce tips fresh off the tree and vacuum pack them, then we freeze them the same day. With this process we can easily get them to last a year and still provide nice aroma and flavor. If you plan to order some but not use them all for a brew right away, you can re-pack what you don’t use and re-freeze it. If you can vacuum seal it that would be best, but even in a zip lock bag they should last several months frozen. Just don't let them get hot! Think of them like spinach. Once they are thawed out they will only last a few days and every day the flavor and aroma profile will decrease. 

About the Spruce Trees:

Colorado Blue Spruce – Native to Colorado. 150-200 years (though some can reach 600 years). Medium to high elevations. The state tree of Colorado. Also known as Blue Spruce or Silver Spruce.

Engelmann Spruce – Native to Colorado. 250-500 years. Medium to high elevations. One of the taller of the high elevation conifers. They can survive in cold temperatures and deep snow pack at timberline (normally around 11,500 ft. around these parts). Produces cones at 25-50 years.

Other Uses – Food & Medicine - The leaves and branches, or the essential oils, can be used to brew spruce beer! (Go figure…) Also, the tips from the needles can be used to make spruce tip syrup. Native Americans in New England used the sap to make a gum which was used for various reasons, and which was the basis of the first commercial production of chewing gum. In survival situations spruce needles can be directly ingested or boiled into a tea. This replaces large amounts of vitamin C. Also, water is stored in a spruce's needles, providing an alternative means of hydration. Spruce tip tea has long been used by indigenous peoples to soothe coughs and sore throats, and to alleviate lung congestion. Reports say that spruce can be used as a preventative measure for scurvy in an environment where meat is the only prominent food source. Although there are many known uses for spruce, always consult a tree-eating expert before scarfing down wicked huge helpings of pine. 

About Us:  Spruce on Tap was started by homebrewers in Colorado. We have spruce trees everywhere, we have good beer everywhere and we have homebrew enthusiasts everywhere. It just made sense to offer spruce tips when we learned that others around the nation love to experiment as much as we do, but they don’t have access to spruce tips. So here we are, at your service!

Recipe Ideas:  NOTE – Everyone’s tastes are different (and we are glad for that). Some people are very sensitive to the pine flavor that spruce tips add to a beer and other people are not as sensitive to it. We always recommend starting light on your first batch. Then you know what to expect. After that, start ramping up on future batches if so desired. Fresh spruce tips may have high levels of undesirable resins and tannins when boiled too long.  We normally add the spruce to the last 15 min of the boil (or less).  The aromatic quality of the spruce is most present with this process.

PLEASE NOTE - Differing times of harvest, kinds of trees, age of tips, length of storage, etc. all contribute to the potency of the spruce tips. When you open your package, if they smell super strong then they probably are and can use a little less. If there is not a lot of aroma you may consider using more in the recipe.

COMMERCIAL BREWERIES - For commercial breweries we are seeing most people use 1-2lbs per BBL depending on the beer style for subtle flavor. So if you were brewing a porter or a stout it would probably be recommended to go with 2lbs or more. For a lighter beer 1lb should be fine. The young spruce tips that we harvest are not harsh, piney or resiny. Riff Raff Brewing Co brewed a 3BBL batch and used 2.5lbs per BBL (7.5lbs total) into a lightly hopped pale ale recipe. Here are their comments: "We wanted a lot of spruce flavor, and we got it. Though it is nice and sprucey, it is not overwhelming or too piney. Very little tannins are detected. It adds almost a sweet, slightly minty character. It has been a very popular seller." So, that said, if you stick with the 1-2lb / BBL suggestion you should have a nice, subtle flavor.

 

Recipes

Those adventurous brewers can go old-school and replace all hop additions with spruce tips – a true old skool spruce beer! But be careful, replacing hop additions with spruce additions (especially the longer boil times) can make one whopper of a sprucey beer.

2 Tbs Spruce Essence   =    Approximately 4 oz spruce tips

 

Spruce Juice Pale Ale (Our own family recipe, which has won ribbons!):

(5 Gallons – Mash Extract)

1.5 lb Light Dry Malt Extract

2.75 lb Pale Malt Liquid Extract

2 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row)

1 lb Munich Malt – 10L (Great Western)

½ lb Carapils

¼ lb Caramel / Crystal Malt – 60L

1 oz New Zealand Hallertauer (8.5% - 60 minutes)

.5 oz Cascade (8.6% - 20 minutes)

4 to 8 oz Spruce Tips (15 minutes - less for subtle flavor, more for lots of flavor)

1 tsp Irish Moss (15 minutes)

1 oz New Zealand Hallertauer (8.5% - 5 minutes)

Ale Yeast

(priming sugar for bottling)

Mash crushed grains at 150 degrees for one hour. Remove grains and bring to a boil. Cut heat and add extracts. Bring back to a boil and start hop additions. Cool wort in a fermenter and pitch yeast. Rack to secondary after primary fermentation has slowed (usually 3-5 days). Condition in secondary for two weeks before bottling or kegging.

 

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Pagosa Brewing Co (Limited hints on how they made the Cask Ale):

10 gallon Firken of new IPA (pulled directly from primary) with fresh wort added for priming
1/2 lb of frozen spruce tips added to firken + 1lb cascade hops  

Nice!

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Another Spruce Recipe - 10 Gallon All Grain:

 

Spruce Juice

American Pale Ale

 

Type: All Grain

Date: 7/10/2012

Batch Size (fermenter): 10.00 gal

Brewer: Fuego (the cat)

Boil Size: 13.44 gal

Asst Brewer:

Boil Time: 60 min

Equipment: Stainless Kegs (10 Gal/37.8 L) - All Grain

End of Boil Volume 11.44 gal

Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %

Final Bottling Volume: 9.25 gal

Est Mash Efficiency 79.2 %

Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage

Taste Rating(out of 50): 60.0

Taste Notes: Yeah, this beer rocks. Smell the spruce tips when you open the bag. If it hits you like a blast of Pine Sol (only good smelling) then you can cut down on the tips. If they are a little mellow, then up the ante. Remember, wild harvested means there will be variance in potency. Cheers to a fun filled brew (and end product of course).

- Spruce On Tap

Ingredients

Ingredients

Amt

Name

Type

#

%/IBU

16 lbs 8.0 oz

Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)

Grain

1

82.5 %

2 lbs

Caramel/Crystal Malt - 20L (20.0 SRM)

Grain

2

10.0 %

1 lbs

Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM)

Grain

3

5.0 %

8.0 oz

Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM)

Grain

4

2.5 %

2.00 oz

Cascade [8.60 %] - Boil 60.0 min

Hop

5

31.7 IBUs

1.00 oz

Cascade [8.60 %] - Boil 20.0 min

Hop

6

9.6 IBUs

2.00 tsp

Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 mins)

Fining

7

-

6 - 12 oz

Spruce Tips (Boil 15.0 mins)

Flavor

8

-

2.00 oz

Cascade [8.60 %] - Boil 5.0 min

Hop

9

6.3 IBUs

2 - 4 oz

Spruce Tips (Boil 0.0 mins)

Flavor

10

-

1.0 pkg

American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) [124.21 ml]

Yeast

11

-

 

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 12.744 Plato

Measured Original Gravity: 12.700 Plato

Est Final Gravity: 3.106 Plato

Measured Final Gravity: 3.100 Plato

Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.2 %

Actual Alcohol by Vol: 5.2 %

Bitterness: 47.6 IBUs

Calories: 171.5 kcal/12oz

Est Color: 7.0 SRM

 

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body, No Mash Out

Total Grain Weight: 20 lbs

Sparge Water: 9.59 gal

Grain Temperature: 65.0 F

Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F

Tun Temperature: 65.0 F

Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUE

Mash PH: 5.20

Mash Steps

Name

Description

Step Temperature

Step Time

Mash In

Add 29.00 qt of water at 167.3 F

153.0 F

60 min

 

Sparge Step: Fly sparge with 9.59 gal water at 168.0 F

Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).

Carbonation and Storage

Carbonation Type: Keg

Volumes of CO2: 2.3

Pressure/Weight: 12.54 PSI

Carbonation Used: Keg with 12.54 PSI

Keg/Bottling Temperature: 45.0 F

Age for: 30.00 days

Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage

Storage Temperature: 65.0 F

Notes

 

Created with BeerSmith

 

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Kumdis Island Spruce Beer:

(5 Gallons - Taken with permission from Charlie Papazian’s book The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, where you can find even more spruce recipes and TONS of other great brewing info. His book is highly recommended…)

6.6 lbs Briess CBW traditional dark malt extract syrup

4 oz Spruce Tips

2 oz Vanguard or Hallertauer hops (Boiling – 10 HBU)

American Ale Type Yeast

¾ c. corn sugar or 1 ¼ c. Dry malt extract (for bottling)

OG – 1.046 – 1.050

FG – 1.010 – 1.014

Bitterness – 32 IBU; Color 20 SRM

Add the malt extracts,  spruce tips and boiling hops to 1.5 gallons of water and boil for 60 minutes. Strain, sparge and transfer immediately to 2 gallons of cold water in the fermenter. Top off with additional water to make five gallons. Add the yeast when cool and ferment to completion. Bottle when fermentation is complete.

 

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Montana In My Mind
Style: American Brown Ale
TYPE: Partial Mash
Taste: Excellent, background spruce, touch of smoke.

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size: 5.50 gal      
Estimated OG: 1.048 SG
Estimated Color: 19.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 30.2 IBU
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount        Item                                      Type         % or IBU      
3.30 lb       Pale Liquid Extract (8.0 SRM)             Extract      39.76 %       
2.50 lb       Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)            Grain        30.12 %       
0.50 lb       Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM)     Grain        6.02 %        
0.50 lb       Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)                Grain        6.02 %        
0.50 lb       Smoked Malt (9.0 SRM)                     Grain        6.02 %        
0.80 oz       Centennial [10.50 %]  (60 min)            Hops         24.0 IBU      
0.30 oz       Cascade [7.20 %]  (30 min)                Hops         4.7 IBU       
0.20 oz       Cascade [7.20 %]  (10 min)                Hops         1.5 IBU       
1.00 oz       Spruce Candles (Boil 30.0 min)            Misc                       
2.00 oz       Spruce Candles (Boil 60.0 min)            Misc                       
1.00 lb       Honey (1.0 SRM)                           Sugar        12.05 %       
1 Pkgs        Cooper Ale (Coopers #-) [Cultured]        Yeast-Ale                  


Mash Schedule: Temperature Mash, 2 Step, Medium Body
Total Grain Weight: 4.00 lb
----------------------------
Temperature Mash, 2 Step, Medium Body
Step Time     Name               Description                         Step Temp     
30 min        Protein Rest       Add 5.00 qt of water at 129.3 F     122.0 F       
45 min        Saccharification   Heat to 154.0 F over 15 min         154.0 F       
10 min        Mash Out           Heat to 168.0 F over 10 min         168.0 F       

I like to do a late addition on the LME & Honey.  Makes it a "rounder" flavor.
The trick with spruce is to get the hops & spruce to meld, so you really can't tell which is which.  So I always shoot for a little lower IBU, and the spruce makes up for it.

 

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Some Funky Colonial Ale:

Alcoholic spruce beer was common in the colonial United States and eastern Canada, made from red or black spruce.  An American recipe from 1796 (though not exactly beer) states:

Take four ounces of hops, let them boil half an hour in one gallon of water, strain the hop water then add sixteen gallons of warm water, two gallons of molasses, eight ounces of essence of spruce, dissolved in one quart of water, put it in a clean cask, then shake it well together, add half a pint of emptins (brewer’s yeast), then let it stand and work one week, if very warm weather less time will do, when it is drawn off to bottle, add one spoonful of molasses to every bottle.