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Fir or Spruce Tip Ale

Fir and spruce are different plants, and have slightly different flavors, but both are citrusy, piney and, in high doses, bitter. Either works. You could experiment with chopped pine needles or juniper branches, too. This beer is pretty "hoppy," and I use quotation marks because some of that will come from the spruce or fir tips. Hard to determine exactly what the IBUs will be, but it'll be more than the 52 listed here. You can of course reduce the hops addition if you want a less pungent brew.
Prep Time1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: ale, beer, fir and spruce
Servings: 3 gallons
Author: Hank Shaw

Ingredients

  • 40 ounces dry light malt extract (50%)
  • 12 ounces dry wheat malt extract (15%)
  • 1 cup liquid Munich extract, about 1 pound (20%)
  • 12 ounces pale crystal malt, cracked (15%)
  • 20 grams Northern Brewer hops, added at 60 minutes to go in the boil
  • 10 grams Saaz hops, added at 30 minutes to go
  • 35 grams fresh fir or spruce tips, added at 30 minutes to go
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, added at 10 minutes to go (helps clarify beer)
  • 15 grams Northern Brewer hops, added at knockout
  • 85 grams fresh fir or spruce tips, added at knockout
  • White Labs Scottish Ale yeast

Instructions

  • Steep the crystal malt. Put the crystal malt into a grain bag or tie it up loosely in cheesecloth and cover it with 2 quarts of water. Bring this to 150°F to 155°F over medium heat and hold it at this temperature for 1 hour. Remove the bag and set it over the pot in a strainer. Pour 2 quarts of water heated to 170°F over it to rinse the grain. Let the bag drain for 10 minutes, then remove. Discard the grain or feed it to animals.
  • Start the boil. Add 3 more gallons of water to the pot and bring this to a boil. As the water heats up, stir in all three extracts, making sure there are no lumps. When you reach a boil, add the hops and set the timer for 1 hour. Add your first hops.
  • Add fir tips and hops. With 30 minutes to go, add more hops and your first addition of spruce or fir tips.
  • Whirlfloc and chiller. If you are using it, add the Whirlfloc to the boil along with the wort chiller, if you have one. This allows it to sanitize.
  • Knockout. Turn off the heat and add the final addition of hops and spruce or fir tips.
  • Crash chill the wort. Use your wort chiller to chill the wort back to 75°F or cooler, depending on how warm your tap water is. Or, put the pot in a cooler with lots of ice water in it. Use a clean metal spoon to create a whirlpool in the wort, which will help it chill faster. Hopefully you will see gnarly bits in the wort that look like egg drop soup, or separating miso in soup: That's cold crash trub, and seeing it means you will have a clearer beer.
  • Move the wort to the fermentor. Add the Scottish ale yeast to the fermentor; I use a glass carboy. Pour the contents of the pot through a sanitized strainer into the fermentor. If the strainer gets all gunked up with trub, remove it before continuing. Put a sanitized airlock on the fermentor and put the beer in a place where it can ferment cool, ideally 66°F to 69°F. Leave it there for 1 week to 10 days.
  • Rack the beer to a secondary. If there is a lot of gunk in the fermentor, rack the beer from the primary fermentor to a sanitized secondary fermentor -- this one needs to be a glass carboy. I do this only if there is a lot of crud in the fermentor. Either way, let the beer finish fermenting for 1 more week.
  • Bottle or keg the beer. If you are bottling, you want to add enough priming sugar to the batch to get about 2.4 volumes of CO2, about 2 1/2 ounces or 72 grams for 3 gallons. Bottle condition 2 weeks before opening the first bottle. This beer ages well.

Notes

I like the mix of Scottish ale yeast with this beer, but any subdued ale yeast is fine. Avoid Belgian yeasts.