Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Hops and Needles

It's that time of year again, where I am planning my third annual Fichtenbier (spruce beer) brewday, and it put me in mind of a beer I tried last year in the tasting room of the then relatively newly opened Braukunstwerk bottle shop in Münster. Hops and Needles from Brewcifer is rather aptly named, as Brewcifer (who I believe brew on Buddelship's kit in Hamburg) sourced spruce needles from Sonnenkiefer, who produce a range of  products from coniferous tree bits.

Described as an IPA with spruce tips, it's got quite a fruity aroma, with tangerine, passion fruit and a minty, lemon verbena note that felt familiar. Flavour-wise, it's slightly medicinal, but with peach and strawberry cream on top of a biscuity base, dried out with mandarin pith, and light tannins. It's a nice, juicy kind of beer, and I liked it a lot, but I couldn't help thinking that the spruce was playing second fiddle to the hops (Simcoe, Amarillo and Citra, by the way), especially as I know what more spruce tastes like. Nevertheless, it added a nice edge, and I guess that's the main point.


6 comments:

BryanB said...

Thanks Barry, you just reminded me I never heard anything after I signed up last year to support Brewcifer's crowdfunding project for a brewhouse! I just checked and he only raised 30% of his target. Shame. I guess that's why they never debited my card - at least, I don't think they did...

Harvey Morrell said...

Did you end up brewing a spruce beer? If so, 1). How did it turn out?, and 2). Care to share the recipe?

Barry Masterson said...

Hi Harvey,

Yes, this was the third year running that I've made a spruce beer. I've used more or less the same recipe each time, with only slight variations on the hops, which are kept in the background a bit, to let the spruce tips shine. 2014 was superb. Really vibrant spruce flavours. People said opening it was like taking a walk in the woods, and the flavour was loaded with rosemary, lemon and pine. 2015 was disappointing. It was a pretty dry spring, and though we harvested from the very same spruce hedge, it lacked all of the qualities we got in 2014. It was ok, but just didn't have the punch. Either the dryness meant the tips were not as "juicy", or the fact the owner of the hedge had trimmed it the previous autumn altered it somehow. THis year was better, but still not near the 2014 version, and was more fruity. NExt year, I'll be using a different source. I only make it once a year, end of May/early June, when the tips are fresh and soft.

The 2014 recipe looked like this:

Size: 24 L
Efficiency: 85%
Attenuation: 81.9%

Original Gravity: 1.055 (1.026 - 1.120)
Terminal Gravity: 1.010 (0.995 - 1.035)
Color: 22.98 EBC (1.97 - 98.5)
Alcohol: 5.91% (2.5% - 14.5%)
Bitterness: 24.3 (0.0 - 100.0)

Ingredients:
3.25 kg (60.2%) Pale Ale Malt - added during mash
1.25 kg (23.1%) Bohemian Pilsner Malt - added during mash
0.3 kg (5.6%) Wheat Malt - added during mash
0.2 kg (3.7%) Melanoidin Malt - added during mash
0.4 kg (7.4%) Caramunich® TYPE II - added during mash
10 g (25.0%) Nugget (14.5%) - added during boil, boiled 60 m
15 g (37.5%) East Kent Goldings (5.4%) - added during boil, boiled 20 m
120 g Spruce Tips - added during boil, boiled 15 m
1 tsp Irish Moss - added during boil, boiled 15 m
1.0 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05
15 g (37.5%) East Kent Goldings (5.4%) - added during boil, boiled 5 m

Next year I may add more spruce too, just in case ;)

Barry Masterson said...

Oh, just to note that having both pale ale and pilsner malt was simply because I was using up some leftover pils malt. :) I could have simplified that part for you to all pale ale malt.

Harvey Morrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harvey Morrell said...

Thank you so much! It looks really interesting (and I mean that in a good way). I am filing this away to try next Spring during my brew club's participation in the annual nationwide Big Brew Day. Assuming I don't move back to Germany after the US election in November, that is. It's good to know that one can get homebrew supplies in Germany. :)