hist-brewing: spruce beer

Jeff Renner jsrenner at umich.edu
Mon Apr 16 12:57:12 PDT 2007

In hist-brewing Digest, Vol 16, Issue 4, I wrote:

> Mike O'Brien, owner of picoBrewing Systems, brews spruce beer  
> regularly.  Often he does at festivals wearing (American) colonial  
> garb, mashing in a half barrel with a hole in the bottom and a  
> broomstick stopper, then boiling in an iron cauldron.
> He uses spruce boughs in the bottom of the mash barrel as a false  
> bottom.  It gives a delightfully subtle flavor that is not  
> immediately recognizable as "Christmas tree."  More of a light  
> lemon peel, perhaps.
> He then hops the beer as usual.

I checked with Mike for more details.  For ten US gallons of beer (38  
liters), he uses "a full grocery bag" of new growth spruce boughs.   
He says this is about 7 pounds (3 kg).   He said that for the annual  
festival in August, these new growth tips are about 7" long (18 cm).

He uses blue spruce because that's what he has growing in his yard.   
(I think he has to sneak past his wife to snip them off.)  He said  
that he has heard that black spruce is supposed to be better.  Of  
course, those grow in bogs and aren't easily accessible.

But he made some a few weeks ago using an old spruce Christmas tree  
he found by the side of the road!  I had some last week and it tasted  

I asked if he ever boiled spruce tips in the wort, and his answer,  
"No!" was pretty emphatic.


Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, jsrenner at umich.edu
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943

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