hist-brewing: Gruit comments

Steve THomas fabricus at hvi.net
Tue Apr 17 04:58:01 PDT 2007

 I became interested in gruits some years ago and can pass some 
information on.
 Bog myrtle is abundant in the Adirondacks.  Collected from the wild it 
is vastly superior in flavor and aroma to the snippets of dust found in 
homebrew shops.  It is not hard to grow if you have the right situation. 
Since it grows in bogs, there isn't much keeping it in place; just pull 
it up and plant it in a boggy spot at home.  The plant is dioecious, so 
choose one with abundant seed clusters in the fall.  I've never noticed 
any psychoactive properties.  It does have a distinct vasodilating 
property in large doses - a flush to the cheeks and throat.  The most 
prominent effect was in a batch of sauerkraut I flavored with the bog 
 Ledum palustre, Labrador tea tastes fine to me - spicy, with a peach 
like fruitiness.  Like bog myrtle it is locally abundant in the 
Adirondacks and is readily transplanted.  (The true boreal form that's 
about 10 inches tall at maturity is very hard to find.  I've got some 
growing but it isn't big enough to harvest yet.)  I have not noted any 
psychoactive or physiological effects.
 My one experiment with yarrow tasted like boiled weeds. Awful.
Wormwood has an enticing aroma and a horrifically lasting bitterness.  
It is a bitterness you can still taste in your mouth the next morning.  
I haven't given up on it. Unless the bitterness is the aroma, separating 
the two should be possible.  Steam distillation of the fresh foliage and 
distillation of alcohol macerations are two experiments to try. Worth 
noting is that there is substantial differences in aromatics from one 
wormwood shrub to another. If a range of individuals are available, 
select by smell.
 My initial interest was gruit beers, but I hasn't done many recently. 
Mostly the bog myrtle and Ledum flavor meads (exquisite) or go in my 
morning tea.
         Steve T.

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