Christmas may be over, but you can still sip on the season with this sustainable beer from the Pacific Northwest made with spruce tips.
Shoshi Parks of VICE got to sample spruce tip ale, and though she writes she was expecting a Pine-Sol flavor, she describes the beer as juicy, melony, bright, and citrusy… “the smell of Christmas mornings.”
Using an ingredient like the sitka spruce tips seems innovative to us, especially since we love all things sustainable. But it turns out that brewing with spruce tips has been a tradition in North America for at least 500 years. Back then, brewers in the northeastern United States and Canada would add pine needles from red and black spruce trees, and in the PNW, they’d use the aforementioned sitka spruce.
As is the case for many types of alcohol, spruce beer was initially medicinal. Inspired by remedies from indigenous peoples in North America, evergreen needles were added to beverages as a cure for scurvy. The needles are a natural source of Vitamin C, and this practice was adopted by European sailors. Additionally, ancient Scandinavians and their Viking descendants brewed beer from shoots of Norway spruce, believing it would give them strength in battle and boost fertility.
Scurvy isn’t too much of a medical issue these days, but sobriety definitely is. A number of North American brewers are putting out refreshing, bright spruce ales – Draft published a comprehensive list last Christmas. Their picks include Grimm Super Spruce (made in Brooklyn), Rock Art Vermont Spruce Stout, Propolis Spruce (Washington state) and Yards Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce, which is actually inspired by Ben Franklin’s recipe.
Since there are so many different types of spruce trees, the flavor of these beers varies by location and the type of needles used. I’ve had an artificial Christmas tree in my house for the last decade, so I won’t be brewing this stuff anytime soon.