I have done several batches in the past with spruce (and other evergreen trees). I maintain that they aren’t necessarily my favorite, but many people have loved them. I wanted to do another batch of spruce mead this year, with a few variations on the theme as I “dial in” a precise recipe.
This year, for the first time, I used chaga with my spruce. Some of the spruce meads haven’t cleared very quickly, so hopefully the chaga will assist with that. Also, I gathered the spruce tips a few weeks later than last time. Rather than beautiful tips, these are fully formed needle branches, though they are still a noticeably vibrant green compared to the old growth:
I began with a good chaga decoction, and then added the spruce needles at the end, letting them simmer for about a half hour:
When I got this far, I realized I had far more tea than I needed. Rather than discard any, I strained out the spruce needles, and then turned up the heat to reduce it to more manageable levels. When this was done, I cooled the tea in the sink, strained everything out of it, dissolved enough honey to get to a 17.5% initial alcohol potential, and pitched the yeast into the carboy:
Note that for this batch, I did NOT add any orange juice, black tea, sumac, or anything else to adjust the pH. I wanted to see what a good strong chaga decoction and the spruce tips would do.
UPDATE: 17 October
After 4 months of primary fermentation, this batch has already cleared beautifully, unlike the previous spruce meads. I could have racked it weeks ago, but for a variety of reasons I let it sit until tonight. It’s racked, and it is now 4.5% alcohol potential, therefore it is 13% ABV. It’s quite sweet, which suits the spruce flavor just fine. This one came out great, and should only improve with age!
UPDATE: 22 March 2014
Here’s the label: