Our Spruce Tip Saison has been in the pipeline for a long time. We started planning this brew 6 months ago, back in February, before our first Rye River Seasonal was even released! Whilst brainstorming ideas for future beers, our team of brewers decided to explore the idea of infusing spruce tips into a brew to bring out flavours of lime and fresh evergreen that are characteristic of new spruce growth.
Our Rye River Seasonal is about allowing our brewers to explore their creative side and challenge themselves by brewing unique styles of beers. On this occasion they decided to go with a Saison style that is brewed with Belgian yeast to elevate these characteristic flavours even further.
Once the style of beer was chosen along with the speciality ingredient, the next step in the process was sourcing the spruce tips themselves. Our Head Brewer, Bill Laukitis, was adamant that the spruce tips used in the brew should be sourced locally to ensure freshness and to give the brew a local connection. Bill started reaching out to local farmers that owned spruce farms, where you’d get your Christmas tree back in the day before everyone got plastic ones!
Luckily for us, he eventually got in touch with the Irish Timber Growers Association (ITGA) who put us in contact with Martin Barrett in Athboy, Co. Meath and they agreed to let us harvest the spruce tips from their farm of spruce trees.
So, in mid-April that’s exactly what we did. Bill rounded up the troops, and over the course of two days, we managed to harvest over 10kgs of spruce tips. This might not sound like a lot but when you take into account the fact that a single spruce tip only weighs a couple of grams, it is a lot!
Martin and his wife were nice enough to meet us on our arrival to the farm and, show us the best places to harvest the tips and even pose for a few pictures!
After each day of harvesting, the spruce tips were brought to our brewery in Celbridge so that we could vacuum-pack them, weigh them, and store them in our freezer for later use in the brew.
Flash-forward to late-August when the lads started brewing the Spruce Tip Saison. They cracked open the bags of spruce and placed them in these large bags in the tank (pictured below) that essentially act like tea bags to infuse the spruce into the brew itself.
A few weeks later they were ready to go into cans and the guys from Irish Craft Canning dropped by to finish the job. The list of stockists for the Spruce Tip Saison will be up online in the coming days. Although, it is already on shelves in some leading off licenses.