hist-brewing: Ledum Palustre Found!

Crystal Isaac xtal at sigenetics.com
Tue Apr 4 09:34:40 PDT 2000

Ouch. Documenting Gruits is a real problem. While my specialty is not
malt-based beverages, I have a few tertiary sources for gruits, however,
only one mentions rosemary. I don't have anything from period sources, but
I'll forward this to some members of the West Kingdom Brewer's guild who do
more research into gruits.

In _A Second Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food & Drink: Production &
Distribution_ (page 212), Ann Hagan notes that various herbs were used for
medicinal and preservative values as well as improved flavor. Beer with
herbs may have included any of the following: agrimony, alecost, alehoof,
ash keys (a preservative), betony, bog myrtle (sweet gale), carline thistle,
dandelion, heather, heleium, march, meadow sweet, nettle, rosemary, sage,
wormwood, yarrow, and sap from spruce and sycamore trees.

C. Anne Wilson further comments, “Birch tree ... sap could also be brewed as
ale with only a quarter of the normal allowance of malt. Mountain ash
berries yielded a juice which was fermented alone or brewed in ale in Wales,
especially in the region of Snowdon. These drinks had a long tradition in
their own localities, but only became more widely known during the
seventeenth century” in _Food and Drink in Britain from the Stone Age to the
19th Century_ (page 383).

Odd Nordland in _Brewing and Beer Traditions in Norway_ wrote an entire
section on “Bog Myrtle, and other flavouring media” and cited several types
of herbs being used in the northern regions including bog myrtle,
dandelions, caraway, tansy, yarrow, wormwood and hypericum. He also notes
the dangers of using some herbs; commenting on the possible abortifacient
qualities of bog myrtle and “The botanists of the sixteenth century also
mention henbane, darnel and woody vine as dangerous herbs mixed into ale.”

In _The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages_ Terrance Scully quotes
Aldobrandino da Siena's _Le Regime du corps de maître Aldebrandin de Sienne_
as saying "Beer is a sort of beverage that is made from oats and wheat and
barley, though that which is made from oats and wheat is better because it
does not cause as much wind or gas. ... And the beer that is made from rye,
or from rye bread in which there is mint and wild celery, is far better than
any other type of beer.”

I guess what I need to do is start digging through the herbals and see if
anything is mentioned as good to put into beer.

Crystal of the Westermark

Crystal A. Isaac
"How do you make breadcrumbs?"

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-hist-brewing at rt.com [mailto:owner-hist-brewing at rt.com]On
Behalf Of OxladeMac at aol.com
Sent: Monday, April 03, 2000 7:20 PM
To: hist-brewing at pbm.com
Subject: hist-brewing: Ledum Palustre Found!

Ok, several months ago there was a big discussion of this list about Ledum
Palustre  (wild/marsh rosemary) being the third ingredient in the trio of
herbs used in gruit.  This was a revelation to me at the time - I had to be
educated that it was not regular rosemary, but a different plant entirely.
Then we all lamented for a while on where to find the herb until one kindly
gentleman finally told us all that we could get it from, oddly enough, LD
Carlson.  Well, after several months of waiting for my supplier to special
order the stuff and ship it out to me, I finally have some of it.

"Ha Ha!"  I thought.  "Gruit ales shall be mine at last!"

Then my lady, a studious type with whose "hobby" is researching, asked me
I "knew" that it was wild rosemary and not regular rosemary that was used.
What sources did I have?  Where was my research?  She reminded me of the
dangers in third or fourth hand scholarship (quoting other peoples quotes of
quotes, ect...)  Where were the _original_ sources?

Umm, errr, all I could put my hand on was Buhner's book.  I was
embarrassed -
for this is far from what I would call a reliable source.

So, to the list, and to all those who lust to make a "real" gruit ale, how
we know that it was wild rosemary (ledum palustre) that was used, and not
common rosemary?  Where are the sources?  The _original_ sources?

By the way, if you are still looking for a source of the herb, you can
contact vtbrew at together.net to order some.  It took me several weeks to get
it, and it was kind of expensive, but they will be glad to help you.  It
looks like regular rosemary, but has an entirely different smell.  I am
looking forward to trying some gruit mixtures with it, perhaps as early as
next week.  Anyone ahead of me?  If so, how are they turning out?


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