Boston Globe

This Massachusetts beer has a little hint of New Hampshire in it

Jun. 25, 2024

Dirigible Brewing of Littleton, Mass., uses a special ingredient gathered from the Lincoln Davis Memorial Forest in Sharon, N.H.

By Amanda Gokee Globe Staff, Updated June 20, 2024, 2:33 p.m.
New England Forestry Foundation

NEFF staff members carefully pick spruce tips at Lincoln Davis Memorial Forest to brew spruce-tip beer in partnership with Dirigible Brewing Co. Photo by Lindsay Sherman.

Earlier this week, a crew of beer makers and forest conservationists embarked on a journey into the Lincoln Davis Memorial Forest in Sharon, N.H.

Their mission? Harvest the freshly grown tips of red spruce trees in order to make a very specific flavor of beer.

The land is managed by the New England Forestry Foundation, who partnered with Dirigible Brewing out of Littleton, Mass., to brew the special flavor of beer that tastes like a little piece of New Hampshire.

One of the staff at the foundation co-owns the brewery with her husband, which sparked the partnership. The brewery donates $1 of each red spruce beer to support the foundation’s work. This is the second year the two groups have worked together on this project. Last year, the spruce tip pale ale was called All Spruced Up! and was available at Dirigible’s taproom.

“In the springtime, the red spruce puts out a flush of new growth, and at the very end of each branch, you can tell, because it’s this bright green little bit of growth on the end,” said Jen Shakun, director of the bioeconomy initiative for the New England Forestry Foundation.

“It’s very tender, and it has a great flavor,” she said.

Shakun said she couldn’t make the trip to harvest red spruce tips this year, but she went last year. The group collected bucketfuls of the spruce tips to brew the beer.

The spruce tips are tender enough to be harvested by hand. And Shakun said it doesn’t hurt the trees because they only harvested a few branches per tree over a relatively large area.

“Oh my gosh, it smells so good, and then your fingers smell good,” she said, describing it as a full sensory experience.

And, she said, the beer that resulted from the process was pretty tasty, too. There was a very potent first batch, before the brewers lowered the amount of spruce in the concoction for a more mild flavor.

“It just sort of smells like a forest,” said Shakun.

She added that the Lincoln Davis Memorial Forest, which is open to the public, has beautiful walking trails, leading up a hill and onto a ridgeline with nice views – for those who want a non-alcoholic taste of red spruce.