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Bog Myrtle instead of Hops

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Mark

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I have heard from a guy I met who was a professional Bog Myrtle gatherer for a perfume maker, that this plant was used by the vikings when they made beer, much in the same way we use hops. Furthermore, that the plant imparted a slight chemical buzz in addition to the alcoholic one.

Does anyone know anything about its use in beermaking? I know where to find the stuff aplenty but am not sure what to do with it.
 

arachnyd

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Bog Myrtle was a part of traditional gruit - an herbal flavoring that was used in beer before hops were introduced.

from Buhner's Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers:

Gruit (or sometimes grut') was, primarily, a combination of three mild to moderately narcotic herbs: sweet gale (Myrica gale), also called bog myrtle, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and wild rosemary (Ledum palustre), also called marsh rosemary.

he goes on to say that while hops tend to promote drowsiness and diminish sexual desire, the herbs in gruit are quite the opposite: "highly inebriating and stimulating when used in ale, far out of proportion to their individual effects outside of fermentation."

Increases in hop growing and the increased controls on gruit are sometimes considered the earliest incidents of government controls on drugs.

The book has some recipes calling for these herbs - but I have not managed to get my hands on any yet (I must admit I have not tried very hard). I would like to give it a go - if anyone knows any good sources for fresh herbs, I would like to hear about them.

If you go ahead and make a Gale Ale - please let us know about it.
 

Janx

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Wow, I'd also love to hear any experiences anyone has with this sort of old-school brewing. Sounds fun! :D

Janx
 

arachnyd

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while I was in Denver last summer for the GABF, Wynkoop's had on tap a gruit beer that was very good. Can't say whether it was any more inebriating than other beer - I went directly from the bar downstairs to a party upstairs and drank plenty of beer - then on to a tap house specializing in belgians...

...let's just say that to really get a good understanding, one would have to sample it in the absence of competing factors.

I do recall that it was a very pleasant flavor, though not at all what most folks would expect from something called beer.
 

Janx

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Wow, I'd also love to hear any experiences anyone has with this sort of old-school brewing. Sounds fun! :D
 

druids_keep

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that link above is out of marsh rosemary - does anyone know where i could find some?
 

feedthebear

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A better resource than Sacred and Herbal Beers is Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher. Chapter 17 is about old and ancient brewing techniques/ingredients. It only has a small section on herbs and gruits, but at least all the recipes are actual beer recipes instead of sugar hooches.

The gruit recipe it has uses:
2 oz. crushed juniper
5 grams each: bog myrtle, caraway, mugwort, and grape tannin (or grape seeds).
3 grams each: rosemary, ground cloves, and cardamom.
3 bay leaves

All are added during the last 5 minutes of the boil.
 

z987k

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This would be cool, but at an average of $4 per herb added, it'd be an expensive brew.
 

McKBrew

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Almost two years with no new posts and the thread is revived again!!!
 

david_42

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That means a No0b is using the search engine, instead for re-posting the same questions. I can handle that.
 

z987k

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david_42 said:
That means a No0b is using the search engine, instead for re-posting the same questions. I can handle that.
it's actually kind of nice, because you can assume everyone in the thread now knows all the information above in the thread
 

WortMonger

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Wow, I like revitalized threads. Way to go newbie!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL, I am going to have to grow some herbs along with a ton of hops this year. I won't get caught in a no hop situation ever again, ever!!!!!!!!!!
 

WortMonger

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LOL, great to have so many new faces that really use the forum. I had to write something so I could easily find this again when I get the herbs.
 

brewmonger

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I have heard from a guy I met who was a professional Bog Myrtle gatherer for a perfume maker, that this plant was used by the vikings when they made beer, much in the same way we use hops. Furthermore, that the plant imparted a slight chemical buzz in addition to the alcoholic one.

Does anyone know anything about its use in beermaking? I know where to find the stuff aplenty but am not sure what to do with it.
So I realize this is a pretty ancient thread (at least in internet timescale), but I'm wondering about your source of Bog Myrtle? I have spent many months and hours looking for good sources of it.

I am aware of Wild Weeds, and was somewhat disappointed by the Myrica Gale I got from them. Prior to that I bought some from www.gruithouse.com, and while it was good quality, it took nearly two months to get it.

I would also be interested in learning how to grow & breed this plant (like hops has been bred) to give different characteristics for different beers. What do you think?
 

bierhaus15

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Great thread - what a coincidence!

I recently (this past monday) brewed a small 8.5 quart batch of 'gruit' using rosemary, yarrow (yellow variety), and sage from my garden. I followed no particular recipe, just wanted to try something completely new as I was using 0.5 lb of Barley Malt (don't know how it ferments) along with 2.5lb of DME.

My friend and I tasted the wort today and surprisingly it tastes quite good. The yarrow imparts a wonderful herbal aroma and taste and the rosemary adds a nice citrusy finish. I wanted to use bogmyrtle, but my LHBS doesn't carry it.

My recipe:

2.5 Amber DME
0.5 Barley Malt
0.25 Crystal malt
4 oz Yarrow (flowers and leaves)
1/2 oz Rosemary
5 Sage leaves

The O.G was around 1.060 and I pitched a packet of Nottingham (all i had).

Even if the batch doesn't turn out perfectly, I'm definitely going to brew a 5 gallon batch with yarrow this fall! :rockin:
 

effigyoffaith

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I have heard of breweries doing a gruit type seasonal but I don't know specifics. I was wondering if anyone know of a source of the plants or even if anyone lives near where they grow wild and might be willing to send me some seed. I love historic brews with exotic ingredients.
 

CBBaron

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From my research it appears that sweet gale, bog myrtle and myrical gale are all the same herb.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrica_gale

I made a couple of gruit ales using sweet gale purchased from an HBS last spring.
Gruit Ales in the Kettle

Current opinion is that the ales are drinkable but not real pleasant. I don't think I will be using sweet gale or mugwort in a beer again. I may try heather again just because I do like Froach, which is a heather ale.

And even with the current hops prices, you won't be saving much money going with these herbs instead. It is less expensive to make a lightly hopped beer with high alpha hops than it is to use these herbs as a substitute.

Craig
 

RootvonRoot

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From my research it appears that sweet gale, bog myrtle and myrical gale are all the same herb.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrica_gale

I made a couple of gruit ales using sweet gale purchased from an HBS last spring.
Gruit Ales in the Kettle

Current opinion is that the ales are drinkable but not real pleasant. I don't think I will be using sweet gale or mugwort in a beer again. I may try heather again just because I do like Froach, which is a heather ale.

And even with the current hops prices, you won't be saving much money going with these herbs instead. It is less expensive to make a lightly hopped beer with high alpha hops than it is to use these herbs as a substitute.

Craig

i brewed a gruit ale using mugwort (and yarrow, labrador tea, one other herb that escapes my memory) .. and while it's ok, i'm not a big fan of it ... has a medicinal, herbal, slightly sweet quality to it that i'm not a big fan of AND after i drink one i tend to get thirsty (for whatever reason)...

i just made a gruit ale with mugwort alone and while it'll be ready to drink this weekend i think the mugwort was the medicinal, herbal culprit...
time will tell - but i don't think i'll care for it much either - and that's really why i brewed it :) exploration...

my wormwood ale on the other hand i like but most of my friends don't ... so i guess more for me!!
 

brewmonger

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Northern brewer sales sweet gale which is supposed to be the same as bog myrtle, according to them. but I have seen things that lead me to think otherwise. I bought some for my heather ale, but chickened out and didn't use it.
http://www.northernbrewer.com/beer-flavorings.html
Myrica Gale, Sweet Gale, and Bog Myrtle are all different names for the same plant.

The northern brewer sweet gale is probably the same 2-gram packages that Brewer's Garden distributes. I have looked at it, and I don't think it is good quality. I actually suspect they are getting it from Wild Weeds and re-packaging it, although I can't verify this.

I am looking for whole-leaf bog myrtle, most importantly with the cones intact. My suspicion, which I have been unable to verify myself, is that the cones of the plant are ideal for brewing with, while the leaves and stems (not much unlike the leaves and stems of the hop plant) are less than ideal and are going to be more astringent and unpleasant in flavor. If true, my goal then would be to breed Myrica Gale for the size, potency, and various flavor/aroma qualities of its cone heads, much as hops has been bred.

So far the best quality source I have found for raw wild-crafted dried Myrica Gale is gruithouse.com, but as I said, the delivery was less than timely. I have found a local nursery that sells seeds and root cutting, so I am going to try to start growing it myself.
 

brewmonger

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i just made a gruit ale with mugwort alone and while it'll be ready to drink this weekend i think the mugwort was the medicinal, herbal culprit...
Mugwort actually has an almost spicy character to it when its boiled. The medicinal culprit was more likely the Labrador Tea.

Traditional gruits would have used Marsh Rosemary (Ledum Palustre) which cannot be found in North America, so Labrador Tea is used instead (Ledum groenlandicum). Its speculated that its use was as a cheap substitute for real Myrica Gale, since they are both found in similar terrains, but was kept on as an ingredient because of its moderately psycotropic qualities.
 

effigyoffaith

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Brewmonger,

Could you give me the name of the nursery that has seeds and cuttings. I'd would like to grow myself some Myrica gale as well.
 

brewmonger

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Brewmonger,

Could you give me the name of the nursery that has seeds and cuttings. I'd would like to grow myself some Myrica gale as well.
Its the Reeseville Ridge Nursery in Reeseville, WI. Here's an email address -- [email protected]

Frankly, I was amazed to find them, given how incredibly rare this plant is in North America. Another local nursery I met at the Madison farmer's market helped me find them. The only reason was because of a 10-year book the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources used to put out (but discontinued in the late 90s) listing all Wisconsin native plant nurserys and which plants they grew. After talking to over local 20 nurserys, one guy told me about the book and that he would look in his most recent copy of it from the late 90s, and the next day emailed me with the info for the Reeseville Ridge Nursery.

Raise a glass to Wisconsin Farmers!!

I was belated, to say the least. I was expecting to have to drive up North and wade through bogs to find some of this stuff, but it looks like I can just grow some in my back yard. Now the trick is learning how to make the soil just right for these babys. I was told by another farmer that they will probably like acidic soil preperations that are very similair to blueberries. Pine needles & sulfur. I have to do some research on that.
 

brewmonger

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p.s.

I was also able to get seeds from B and T World Seeds, but they are shipping them all the way from France. Hopefully they will have different enough genetics from the local ones, that is will allow me to begin experiments in breeding Myrica Gale. We'll have to see though, I have no first-hand experience with any kind of plant breeding.

According to the guy at Reeseville Ridge Nursery, they are very difficult seeds to germinate.
 

munklunk

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Holy resurrection, Batman (Yet again!)

I've been referencing "Extreme Brewing" for a while now, and am thoroughly intrigued by his recipe for Gruit. I see some people on this thread have posted the same recipe that Mosher does in his book, and some have made their own version, but has anyone actually made Randy's actual recipe?

I plan on doing a half batch anyways, just so I know for myself, but would like to know what to expect a bit (so I can know if I'm on point or not)
 

LexusChris

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One of the joys in brewing gruit is that there are so few 'tried & true' recipes out there. Lots of hints, partial recipes & stories .. but until you brew one and try it, what do you really know? It really is a journey, and a fun one at that!

I'm on my 3rd iteration of my own gruit recipe. The last one was a 2 gallon batch, which after 6 months of aging, I really enjoyed. To the point, it was my special treat on brewdays. I was sad when I had my last bottle a few months ago.

This time, I brewed a full 5.5 gal batch and reduced the wormwood a tad, and added Yarrow flowers to the boil and primary. I just bottled it last weekend, and was very pleased with the Yarrow flavor & aroma when I tried the hydrometer sample! :)

I hope to post the full recipe this summer after I try this variant after aging. But in short, the base is an Old Ale recipe at 9% ABV (1.090 OG) & 15 SRM. I finished at 1.017 FG. Here is my current spice additions:

Code:
0.40 gm       Sweet Gale (Boil 15.0 min)                Misc                       
0.70 gm       Sweet Gale (Primary 21.0 days)            Misc                       
1.00 oz       Yarrow Flowers (Boil 30.0 min)            Misc                       
1.00 oz       Yarrow Flowers (Primary 21.0 days)        Misc                       
2.00 gm       Wormwood (Greater) (Primary 21.0 days)    Misc                       
7.00 gm       Wormwood (Greater) (Boil 15.0 min)        Misc
The toughest spice to balance has been the Wormwood. That is one bitter SOB. I highly recommend testing your herb blend in a tea, or tincture, first. If you are unsure of being too bitter or herbal, you should try half as much Wormwood as I have.

Sweet Gale is a lovely pungent, aromatic herb. I really enjoy that one. Yarrow has a very nice flowery aroma. The taste complemented the Wormwood & Sweet Gale well, and did not overpower at those portions.

Finally, I have recently begun using Starwest Botanticals for my herb purchases. There stuff is AMAZING! Vacuum sealed, great quality & sourced form all over the world. Check them out! (n.b. I've used their Hibiscus flowers, Rose Hips & Yarrow Flowers)

So, take the plunge, start with small batches, and plan to iterate with adjustments on the next few batches until you find what you like. Also remember to age them at least 6 months before passing final judgement. The hard herbal 'bite' you taste at month-1 will be greatly subdued by month-6.

Good luck & enjoy gruit!
--LexusChris

p.s. also check out http://www.gruitale.com/recipes_en.htm for some more recipe ideas...
 

munklunk

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And this is exactly the response I was hoping for. Thank you much, Lexus, for the slight encouragement I needed.
 
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2 years later it lives again lol....just tried using sweet gale for the first time along with elderberries in a pale ale. just bottled a few days ago and it already has a really great aroma and taste.
 

leighbooth

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Great!! it tasted and smelled awesome plus the bog myrtle gave the beer an interesting relaxing buzz. Id be happy to share the recipe if your interested.
I know this is an old thread - but I'd be interested in seeing your recipe if you don't mind sharing. I'm just drying a load of Bog Myrtle I just picked. I wanted to try a gruit ale and I have been looking unsuccessfully for wild/marsh rosemary - but can't find in the wild or dried. So I'm looking for some other recipes

Cheers
 
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I can't find the exact recipe I brewed anymore but it was basically a moderately hopped APA with sweet gale and elderberry. I want to say the hop combo was cascade and willamette.
Check out AHS and see what quantity their dried Bog Myrtle comes in, I think its 4 grams. IIRC I used the whole packet in with my 60 min addition.
 

WayFrae

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I love how this thread has been revived about every 2 years. Anyways, this is very intriguing to me. I would love to brew an ancient ale. Do most home brew shops sell these herbs or do you need to source them elsewhere?
 
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