Spruce Picking 2023

Close up baby Spruce Fingers on a little spruce tree

Every year, right around the beginning of May, Fort George packs a lunch and goes out into the forest. Come with us, come into the forest for Spruce Picking.

We have a lot of options when it comes to forests in this area. We’ve got Spruce, Hemlock, Doug Fir, privately owned forest, State Forests, Federal Forests, Christmas Tree Farms, ex-Christmas tree farms, old growth forests, managed forests. Magical Forests? Without active steps to preserve the forest, our entire ecosystem, our inheritance, our clean water and our air quality is all in mortal peril. Going out into the forest to pick spruce tips for Spruce Budd is a good reminder every year of how lucky we are to be here in the Pacific Northwest.

some humans sit in the bed of a truck, they are all wearing stylish hats. spruce tips in buckets everywhere around them

IN THE BEGINNING: SPRUCE BUDD

We’ve been making Spruce Budd since 2008. It is one of the first seasonals we ever brewed and for a long time it was only available on draft at the Pubs. We’re pretty happy to be able to share it with more humans by canning larger and larger batches for wider distribution. But we can only make so much Spruce Budd.

Spruce Budd isn’t just a beer made out of Spruce tips, and it’s not just a nod to a long and glorious history of local dietary knowledge and medicine. It’s a light and breezy summer beverage with a very heavy message: We’re part of the forest (all the forest) and it’s part of us. Mystical forest power courses through the whole brewery when we’re brewing Spruce Budd. 

a forest. a dude with orange bucket approaches, he is picking spruce tips

TASTY TIPS

So in the springtime or early summer we go to this forest, owned by our friends at Earth & Sky Farms.

It is full of Spruce trees. Some of them are Christmas trees that must be candled (new growth pinched off) to maintain their festive, conical shape. So it’s a symbiotic relationship. We spend the whole day picking little tips of bright green new growth from the fingers of the trees. They are soft, pliable, aromatic and slightly sticky. We pack them up in totes, bags, bins and boxes and drive them back to the Brewery. Here we dump them into a warm, malty pilsner mash. They release their tasty juices, fully replacing hops as the source of flavor, aroma, and bitterness. 

CHOWDA BEER

People have been making stuff out of spruce tips on this continent for hundreds of years, not least of all because it’s tasty. In the 16th Century, First Nations people taught sailors from Europe how to brew a tea from pine trees that contained enough vitamin C to prevent them from dying of scurvy. A “CHOWDA BEER” that contained Spruce needles could be kept and served on long sea voyages or in areas where sanitation was impossible and fresh water questionable. It was easy to make, kept sailors alive and was also, presumably, tasty.

Spruce Budd will be in the Pub for a few more weeks, pouring from the taps like a clear mountain stream. And available all over the PNW in 16oz cans.

We don’t make Spruce Budd every year because we’re otherwise in danger of dying of scurvy. It might sometimes be gloomy here, but there’s no lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks Astoria CoOp and North Coast Food Web and many others. We just make it because it’s tasty. 

So very Very VERY tasty. 

A beer without hops. 

Just the piney, fresh, forest-y sweetness of summertime in the PNW. 

a smiling human in a stylish hat and sunglasses holds a tiny little baby spruce tip in one gloved hand.

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