1/2 tsp. gypsum
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 lb. black patent malt
1/3 lb. cara-pils malt
1/3 lb. dark crystal malt, 90° to 120° Lovibond
6 lbs. dark plain malt extract syrup
8 oz. blackstrap molasses
1 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets
(3 to 4% alpha acid), for 45 min.
1 5-in. brewers’ licorice stick, chopped or shaved
1 cup loosely packed fresh spruce needles
10 to 14 g. fruity dry ale yeast or 1 qt. liquid ale yeast culture
2/3 cup corn sugar for priming
Step by Step:
To 2.5 gals. of cold water, add gypsum and salt. Steep malts in a muslin grain bag. Gradually raise temperature to 170° F, remove grains, and sparge into kettle with about 2 qts. of hot water. Bring liquor to boiling, remove from heat, and stir in malt extract and
Return to heat and bring up to boiling again. Add hops. Boil 45 minutes. Remove from heat, set kettle in a sink full of ice water. Steep for about 30 minutes in the cooling wort the licorice stick and the spruce
needles (it’s easiest if these are in some sort of a bag). Remove spruce and licorice, add to fermenter, and top up to 5.25 gals. Cool to 75° F and pitch yeast (Wyeast 1028 or 1275 work well with this brew). Seal up and ferment cool (65° F or less) for about 10 days. Rack to secondary and age cooler (55° to 60° F) for about two weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle, and age three weeks.
OG = 1.046
Obviously, to use fresh spruce needles this would need to be brewed in early spring when the spruce trees begin to sprout new growth. If you wish to brew it “out of season,” however, you can do a couple of things: in season, gather the spruce growth that you will need and freeze it in an airtight, Ziplock bag until needed, or soak them then and there in enough vodka or grain alcohol to cover them completely until you want to use them and then add this potion at bottling instead of as a finish hop. Out of season, you’ll have to use commercial spruce essence that you will probably find at your homebrew-supply store. It’s not perfect. In fact I find it a bit strong, but it will impart a spruce flavor to anything (including your kitchen, if you spill it). Easy does it, add a few drops (to taste)
Blackstrap is ideal, the richest and heaviest of all molasses (except for treacle, of course, but then that’s just too British for this recipe, don’t you think?) but other dark molasses will do. Try, though, or find “unsulphured” brands, because the sulphur (a preservative) may inhibit fermentation and leave you with a cloyingly sweet beer.
You really should use “brewer’s licorice,” or raw licorice root. Licorice candy is not the same thing. Most homebrew shops stock or can get real licorice root, so ask. If it’s unavailable, you can get a licorice-like flavor by adding sambuca or Galliano liqueur, or by using some anise instead. But the founding fathers would not have used these, surely.
Mash 7 lbs. pale malt plus 1 lb. dark Munich malt (20° Lovibond) and the specialty grains above in 11 qts. of liquor at 150° F for 90 minutes. Sparge at 168° F to get 6.5 gals., add 8 oz. molasses, and boil to reduce to 5.25 gals. Add hops and spices as above.