Tree Brew

The Ale Apothecary owner and brewer Paul Arney makes unique, small-batch creations aged in oak barrels at his brewing facility outside Bend. While looking for ideas for a new concoction, Arney decided to cut down a spruce tree from his backyard to make a Finnish style of beer called a Sahti.


The Sahti was first brewed in Finland over 400 years ago, usually using a juniper tree as a kuurna, or hand-carved wooded trough. The kuurna acts as a lauter tun, which separates out the liquid wort from the mashed grain as it runs through a filter of spruce branches during the brewing process.


Arney estimated the spruce tree he chose at roughly 85-100 feet tall, and after a quick count of the rings, close to 200 years old. He spent several months hollowing out the inside and turning the tree into a brewing vessel.

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Paul Arney takes a few ceremonial chops into a spruce tree with an axe as Bill Warburton, left, and Jonah Gladney, both of Bend, watch behind Arney's home west of Bend. Gladney later used a chainsaw to fell the tree.

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Paul Arney walks along a spruce tree with a tape measure that Jonah Gladney, right, of Bend, sawed down with a chainsaw behind Arney's home west of Bend. Arney measured out a section he needs to make a kuurna, a brewing vessel for the Sahti style he planned to make.

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A section cut from the approximately 85-100 foot tall spruce tree to be made into a kuurna from Paul Arney's backyard is dragged from the woods up a gravel road to the front of Arney's brewery by neighbor Bob Crain. 

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Paul Arney uses a chainsaw to cut a wedge out of the spruce tree so he can hollow out and smooth the interior for his kuurna. 

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Paul Arney uses a chainsaw to cut a wedge out of the spruce tree so he can hollow out and smooth the interior for his kuurna. 

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After using a chainsaw to cut a wedge out of the spruce tree, Paul Arney lifts the center piece out so he can work on continuing hollowing and smoothing out the interior of the tree outside the Ale Apothecary Brewery west of Bend.

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Paul Arney uses woodworking tools to chisel out the inside of the spruce tree he cut down to use as the kuurna for the Sahti beer he's brewing at his brewery west of Bend.
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Paul Arney uses woodworking tools to chisel out the inside of the spruce tree he cut down to use as the kuurna for the Sahti beer he's brewing at his brewery west of Bend.
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Paul Arney checks to see if any water is leaking from the underside as friend Herb North, right, fills the kuurna with water during a test run outside Arney's brewery west of Bend. 

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Paul Arney lays freshly-cut spruce branches in the bottom of his spruce kuurna before adding malted grain and beginning the mashing and lautering process of brewing. Hot water and malted grain are added on top of the spruce, and the resulting liquid, called wort, is boiled and then put into a barrel to ferment and age, eventually becoming beer. 

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Paul Arney noses a sample of the wort he created in his spruce tree kuurna. Wort is the liquid produced by extracting sugars from malted grain with hot water that becomes beer after being boiled and fermented. Arney will age his Sahti, which he is calling Sahati, for around 6-9 months in oak barrels in his brewery west of Bend.
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