hist-brewing: VI-718, brewing chemistry & sweet gale

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Mon Nov 13 13:46:33 PST 2000

brewinfo at xnet.com (brewing) wrote:

    "Finally, tannins do not lower pH and if you are making any effort
to extract
tannins from your malt, then you are in error."
    - While it is true that tannins do not lower pH i think that it is
incorrect to say that one should never attempt to extract tannins from
their mash.  Tannins do provide a crucial element to the flavor profile
of several different styles of ale.  Specifically i know of several
accomplished Lambic brewers who purposely extract tannins from their
mash because they believe that it helps with the prolonged secondary
fermenting common to the style.
    Also, several ale styles, including some currently in production in
France and Holland,  use wood to provide preservative and flavor
attributes.  Wood certainly does contribute plenty of tannins to these

    As for sweet gale i have spent a great deal of time and effort
attempting to discover what concentration is required under what
conditions to produce health related problems.  While i freely admit
that i am no toxicologist and i am not ideally suited to researching
this problem i could find no empirical study which indicated that any
potential health problem exists as a result of sweet gale's use in
commercial beverages.
    Sweet gale has been used for quite some time and continues to be
used by distilled liqueur producers in Europe as well as volkish brewers
in the Baltics and Scandinavia, particularly rural Norway, with no
apparent health problems.  I can say this with some certainty because
what ever abortifacient properties one can attribute to Myrica Gale no
indication can be found in the relevant health statistics from Norway
and Sweden where consumption of  farm ales using Myrica Gale is still
some what common.  Also, the various commercial  distilled beverages
that use sweet gale have done so for some time without ever the hint of
health related problems.
    Oh, by the way, for about a year now an American micro brewery has
used sweet gale in a gruit like ale that is on sale to the public.  Once
again, their has not even been a hint of health problems related to it's
consumption which is really amazing considering the litigious
disposition of the American public.
    Of course some indication abortifacient properties or other problems
may be found at particularly high concentrations but without some
serious research any determination along these lines would be quite hard
to determine.  Off, hand i have know plenty of friends whose family
recipes call for an ounce of Myrica Gale per five gallons of ale.  Such
ales have been consumed for a great many generations with no problems
even hinted at as a result.  In short, i have seen no evidence or even
anecdotal support for the notion that Myrica Gale is likely to cause
health problems when used in the concentrations normally used in the
brewing and distillation industries.
    Lastly, Wormwood is not a bittering agent.  It is an anti-septic and
flavoring agent.  I have not looked into it's safety and i have not made
any recipes that call for it's use so i will refrain from commenting
upon it's suitability for brewing.

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