Monday, May 20, 2013

Spruce Tips

I take daily walks around an oasis in the middle of the desert between the building I work in and the nuclear power plant. The oasis is a small park certain people with more power/money than common sense decided to build about 7 years ago. Nobody uses the park and my only interaction has been to walk around it, more like an obstacle than a destination; that is, until today.

It's springtime and there are two spruce trees in the oasis, which means fresh spruce tips right now, and that means spruce beer, or beer flavored with spruce needles the same way beer is flavored with hops. It had not occurred to me before today that there is a plethora of fresh spruce tips at my disposal and ripe for the picking.

I stopped in a location so the tree would block the view between myself and the parking lot, just so no curious parties get suspicious  about what I was actually doing to the tree, and plucked a small soft tip from the end of a branch to taste. Initially nothing, but then a pleasant lemon like acidity was followed by subtle pine/juniper berry flavor. I don't think I would make a salad with them, but they aren't bad tasting at all.

Les from Survivorman made tea out of spruce tips in an old episode and everything I have read says they are full of vitamin C, turning my future beer into more of a health drink than it already is, with all of the probiotics (yeast), mountain spring water (joking), whole grains, and mind expanding alcohol.

After retrieving a plastic shopping bag (reuse-recycle) from the car, I proceeded to fill the bag plucking three and four soft tips from each branch in a hurried pace. After a good 20-30 minutes of harvesting, I would say I have somewhere around 5lbs of spruce tips. I see 1lb of these go for 20.00 on Ebay, or $40.00 from here.

After rinsing and picking out the undesireables I ended up with a little over 4 pounds.

I have never had spruce beer and would welcome any advice on amounts and recipes to try.


  1. I have had some, I will try to get the brewer to post some note for you here.

  2. I think I'm the guy J was talking about - I've made spruce beer a couple times, and had a few examples of good and bad brews. I'd say just go easy on it... it's really easy to over do it. Also, if I remember right, add it late or maybe even at flameout.

  3. It's the 'go easy' part that seems to never get explained :) Is 1 lb going easy or is it more like 1 ounce per 5 gallon batch.

    I have read that the pine aroma intensity will change from year to year, I believe this to be the fact that the older the sprout the stonger it becomes. A small closed fresh sprout has very little flavor, while one that has opened up a little with needles beginning to stiffen has exponentially more.

    Today's salad experiment told me that a little does go a long way; although, I would highly recommend a few tips tossed in a green salad.