hist-brewing: gruit metheglin

Steven Thomas fabricus at hvi.net
Sun Nov 2 10:52:36 PST 2003

Metheglin with bog myrtle, Labrador tea, and bee balm

Several educated palates have declared this to be anawesome product, 
despite its being only three months old.  The bog myrtle is commercially 
available but quite expensive on this scale; it is also of indifferent 
quality compared to the collected from the wild.

Design principle:  a mead designed to emphasize a spicy floral character.

Base mead of clover honey targeted at 1.105 SG, 3 1/2 gallons at start of 
All herbs dried; 1 1/2 ounces each of bog myrtle and Labrador tea, about 
1/2 oz rose-scented bee balm
Yeast: Brewer's Resource Scottish Bitter yeast harvested from under a 
barely hopped beer

    The honey is not boiled; the water for the mead is boiled, with half of 
the bog myrtle and half of the Labrador tea, for about half an 
hour.  Remove the steeping herbs from the heat and add the honey,yeast 
nutrient for meads (Beverage People), and half of the remaining bog myrtle 
and half of the remaining Labrador tea; and add half of the bee balm.
    Cool, transfer to a carboy, including most of the Labrador tea and bog 
myrtle, excluding most of the bee balm, and add yeast
    When the primary ferment winds down to a very low level boil half a 
gallon of water and steep the remaining herbs in the lidded pot until cool 
enough to add to fermenter, including most of the Labrador tea and bog 
myrtle, excluding most of the bee balm.

    Labrador tea is harvested in flower, in June.  It is commercially 
available from Taiga Herbs on the net.

    Bog myrtle is harvested in fruit, in late September.  Strip leaves and 
fruiting structures from the shoot tips, preferentially from female 
plants.  The resiny coating on the fruiting structures is the most aromatic 
portion; the leaves have a pleasant aromatic/tannic quality.  The bog 
myrtle fruits are much denser then the leaves and sort themselves to the 
bottom of the pile; use this property to put more of the leaves in the 
early additions, more of the seeds in the later additions.  Bog myrtle is 
commercially available in homebrew shops under the Brewer's  Garden label.

    The bee balm is collected in early fall, primarily flowerheads and a 
few associated leaves.  There are many kinds of bee balm, somewhat less 
than the number of mints, most inappropriate to this mead.  The variety of 
bee balm used is a rose scented bee balm available as plants from Richters 
Herbs, on the net, as bergamot, rose-scented.  The bee balm has a very 
pleasant aroma, but develops an unpleasant warming quality at the back of 
the throat in a long steep.  Therefore, it is best to fish out most of the 
bee balm flowerheads before making transfers.  The aroma is quite volatile 
and extracts readily

    As noted, the SG is targeted at 1.105 at start of ferment; the mead was 
clearly finishing too sweet, so a fairly large volume was chosen for the 
final herb addition, half a gallon.  The ferment picked up again, and now 
the residual sugar is about right.  This makes the effective SG about 
1.092, surprisingly low to have residual sweetness.  Apparently the yeast, 
chosen for its scent of rose petals, is remarkably alcohol intolerant.

    To reiterate the herb additions:
       in boil 1/2 hour 3/4 oz bog myrtle and 3/4 oz Labrador tea
       end of boil addition 3/8 oz bog myrtle, 3/8 oz Labrador tea, 1/4 oz 
bee balm
       end of active primary ferment addition same additions as end of boil 
(3/8, 3/8, 1/4)

    Various experiments can be run on the herbs as teas, to predict their 
flavor profiles in the fermented product.  The general principle is to use 
the boil to extract tannins and other flavors well bound to the plant 
structures, reserve the aromatic components for the late additions.
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