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Alaskan Winter Ale is Released, It’s Spruce Time

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Where the eagles perch, we harvest and drink.

I recently wrote an article about all (well, maybe not all, but most) of the winter ales that are made by Washington brewers. You can find it here.  As much as I was tempted to discuss some of my favorites outside of WA, I censored myself in order to not divert any of the much needed attention on our home state’s winter bounty.  Now I’ve lost all inhibitions, mostly due to Alaskan Brewing’s recent announcement that it’s Winter Ale season.

This is not just any ordinary winter warmer.  No no, this is something much more special.  Who better to tell the tale than Alaskan themselves.

From their website:

 

 

winter_style

English Olde Ale. Traditionally malty with the warming sensation of alcohol, Olde Ales are brewed in the fall as winter warmers.

 

winter_flavor

Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, this ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol.

 

winter_history

From the seafaring adventurers of the 1700s to the homebrewers of today, adding spruce tips to beer has a rich history in Southeast Alaska.

 

winter_ingrediients

Alaskan Winter is made from glacier-fed water, Sitka spruce tips and a generous blend of the finest quality European and Pacific Northwest hop varieties and specialty malts. Our water originates in the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Ice Field and from the more than 90 inches of rainfall we receive each year.

 

These be the tips

 

I love old ales, and I love pine flavors, so naturally I adore this release and always look forward to it.  I had actually wanted to homebrew a spruce ale recently but didn’t know where to find the tips.  Some homebrew shops carry spruce flavoring but I have heard that it can be very overpowering if not used extremely sparingly.  I guess I could just go out into the wilderness and harvest my own.  According to Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska (who also provided the picture to the right):

 

The key to cooking with the tips of evergreen trees is to harvest them when they first begin to emerge from their brown papery casings. At this stage, spruce tips are very tender and have a fresh flavor that tastes lightly of resin with hints of citrus.

As spruce tips mature, the resinous aspect of their flavor intensifies. When the spruce tips begin to harden, form actual needles, and lose their bright spring green color, I no longer use them for cooking.

Spruce tips are rich in Vitamin C. Spruce tip tea (just dry the spruce tips) has long been used by indigenous peoples to soothe coughs and sore throats, and to alleviate lung congestion.

To harvest spruce tips, pop the tips off the end of the bough as if you’re picking berries. When you’re done picking, remove and discard the papery casings, and discard any hard stem that may have broken off with the tip. The spruce tips are now ready to use.

 

Wow, this sounds very do-able, and healthy!.  It seems that late spring to early summer is the best time to harvest, so I guess I’ll just have one more reason to look forward to the warmer weather in 2011.

 

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