hist-brewing: Thoughts on Myrica Gale & Gruit

Bill certainkindoffool at gmail.com
Mon Jul 7 15:51:20 PDT 2008

Here's something that just occurred to me:

The primary herb used in gruit was Myrica Gale, which has cone heads, much
like hops.

For us modern re-creationists of historic gruit ale to simply throw leaves &
stems into the boil kettle would be equivalent to a conventional modern
brewer throwing the stems and leaves of the hop plant into the boil kettle.
In other words you're going to get a pretty vegetative taste, no matter
which plant you are using.

To really do justice to gruit ales, you'd not only need to use mostly or
entirely the cones of the Myrica Gale, but you'd need to cultivate and breed
specific strains of the plant designed for brewing with their cone heads.
(I can't imagine that wild hops is the most desirable strain for brewing
with in modern breweries)

I'm just speculating on this point, but selective breeding of Myrica Gale
was probably done in the middle ages under the auspices of the Catholic
Church, since they held a monopoly on the sale and taxation of gruit.  It is
a very aromatic and bittering plant with a lot of volatile oils and resins.
If you make a simple tea out of it you can literally see the oils on the
surface of the tea when you let it cool.  And this is just from the wild

Now that would be a project -- breeding Myrica Gale for different properties
of it cone heads to be used in brewing.


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