Many of the herbs I list in this blog entry are dangerous! Do your homework before you follow some recipe on the web! Yarrow may lead to allergic skin rash or photosensitivity. Wild rosemary can give you unpleasant drunkenness including headache and dizziness. Pregnant women take note as bog myrtle or sweet gale is a drug that can cause an abortion. These symptoms were provided by www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net. Again, I must state: Limit of Liability and Disclaimer: Reference to "this blog, website and media herein" refers to the blog and website, "concoctingbrews.weebly.com, and the email associated with the blog/website, concoctingbrews.weebly.com. This blog, website and media herein are designed to provide opinion, accurate and authoritative information, not legal advice in regard to the subject matter covered. This blog, website and media herein are distributed/displayed with the understanding that the author is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. Before acting on any suggestion presented in this blog, website or media herein, professional assistance may be advisable. Cooking and brewing of beer can be dangerous and injuries may occur. The author specifically disclaim any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise for application, directly or indirectly, of any advice or information presented in the blog, website and media herein. The author in no way guarantees the accuracy of any of the information appearing in this blog, website or media herein and the opinions stated in this blog, website and media herein. The opinions stated herein are not guaranteed or warranted to produce any particular results, and the advice and strategies contained in the blog/website and media herein may not be suitable for every individual. The website, blog and media herein shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. Read this blog entry for entertainment purposes only.
Gruit was an ale, top-fermented with an herb mixture that flavored and bittered beer before hops was used, typically, between the 11th and 16th centuries.
I ventured into my local new age shop: Triple Goddess Bookstore. http://www.triplegoddessbookstore.net/ Herbs, candles, oils, crystals, jewelry and tarot readings are just some of things she has to offer. Just about anything you could want from a gift shop for that hard to buy for person. I got a copy of Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers from this store. I had wanted to see if she stocked any of the gruit herbs I needed. She did stock the mugwort; I think the mandrake was currently out of stock.
I am only brewing a gruit ale of bog myrtle, wild rosemary, yarrow and mugwort. The other herbs I will research further before I try using any of them. I've gotten recipe ideas from Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing and a number of library books.
If you do your internet reading you will find gruit ale was made from a variety of herbs: sage, wormwood, mistletoe, saffron, juniper berries, ginger, caraway seed, aniseed, heather, ground ivy, horehound, nutmeg, licorice, cinnamon., henbane and nightshade. Not all were used at the same time; some beer recipes may have used a single herb.
In fact, http://susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/February11/empower.htm, points out that the "original pilsner beer meant a henbane ale." It is a dangerous herb that is at first an aphrodisiac in moderate doses to demented confusion and madness in higher doses.
The site http://imbibemagazine.com/gruits/_ shows a lot of gruits being produced today by breweries.
Per www.alchemy-works.com, clary sage increases beer intoxication. If you are into the new age thing, it is supposed to help you if you are working with your dreams or trying to become clairvoyant. If you believe in alchemy, the book Medieval English Gardens, provides a small bit of trivia: sage was used to remove iron from a spa during the early 1900's.
Per http://smallbeerpress.com/, rosemary and sage filled in for hops in medieval beer. The site also lists sage, along with mint and St. John's wort, as a preservative for beer. The website lists the herbs wormwood, bog myrtle, mandrake clary sage, Scottish heather, henbane and belladonna were used in beer one hundred to two hundred years before Reinheitsgebot. Many of these herbs were narcotic and hallucinogenic.
Some websites conflict with each other as http://sagescript.blogspot.com/ lists clary sage and yarrow as bittering herbs that need to be added as the beginning of boiling a beer.
I used www.gruitale.com in composing my recipe. It also provides some great information about the gruit herbs. Sage is best extracted with alcohol, so you could use mortar and pestle grinding before placing it in a jar of vodka. Sage could also be placed in the fermenting vessel much as one would dry hop beer. Mugwort tends to well at clarifying beer. Marsh or wild rosemary has a spicy aroma and is narcotic to taste. Inebriating, toxic and can cause headaches make a lot of authors caution in the using of this herb. Yarrow is delicious to taste and aromatic. Yarrow is good for a boil, at the end or added to the fermentation vessel. Sweet gale or bog myrtle is good for the boil and also added to the fermentation vessel.
According to http://www.alchemy-works.com/herb_black_nightshade.html, the FDA no longer allows the importation of belladonna or deadly nightshade. The site will sell you the seeds of some of these.
Another site, http://www.magicalrecipesonline.com/2013/01/herb-analysis-belladonna-atropos-deadly.html, discusses the hallucinogenic flying ointment that allowed witches to enter altered states and astral project.
If you've enjoyed reading this blog entry you may want to stop by Sarah Anne Lawless' website, Solanum: The Poison Plants of Witchcraft. She has some great pictures that help with identification: http://sarahannelawless.com/2010/05/10/solanum/
Belladonna was used to open the door between this world and others commonly used in shamanism. Boiled, well ripe black nightshade berries were safe to eat; leaves and roots were toxic if burned. It was turned into jams or liqueurs. Datura was known as thorn-apple or jimsonweed. Datura is dangerous to the touch and looks like the lettuce with prickly leaf points and little pods looking like the balls of a sweetgum tree. Its hallucinations can go for days. Henbane was commonly used in middle ages beer. Please note that plants from the Solanaceae family can cause heart damage and can lead to death! Mandrake is best ingested as a tea or infused in wine.
Only now I am pondering making a homeopathic extract of 2 of the dangerous herbs using vodka, wearing latex gloves and air mask, mortar and pestle to crush in order to add to a gruit ale in the fermentation vessel much like dry hopping beer. This should make it safer.
Finding your gruit herbs is as hard as finding "eye of newt"! Bog myrtle is best found at http://wildweeds.com/index.html as it is hard to locate in the U.S. They did provide really quick service. I ordered from their website and it took 1/2 a week.
You may be able to find some herbs at wildwizardcrafts in Etsy, eBay, http://nhastore.com/, bulkapothecary.com, jet.com. You can find some of the seeds from these and the dangerous herbs from alchemy-works.com. Another site may help you find some herbs: www.sheffields.om
If you prefer, you can order your bog myrtle right from Scotland: www.bogmyrtle.com.
For ideas in recipe construction, the German version of gruit at
shows they did a long boil for high alcohol. Of course, I know now that 1 lb of grain per quart mashed in the 140 degree range for 3 hours might do just as well as the 4 hour boiling they discuss in the article. They suggested a German Alt yeast because it is an old German strain.
My New Batch on the Stove: Cranberry Wheat Gruit
I tried to use the consensus to determine which herbs to add when: Bog Myrtle would bitter (45 minutes to end of boil), add 1/3 each of the remainder herbs at 30 minutes, add 1/3 of the remainder herbs to flavor at 15 minutes and add 1/3 to give aroma just at the end of the boil. (Notice - I didn't give the amounts of gruit herbs - see below) My total grain was 2 1/4 lbs: 75% pale malts and 25% wheat malts. The grains would cook 1 hour while I added the bitter herbs later. Two sources disagreed whether to cook bittering herbs 60 minutes or 30. I went for the middle ground and added bog myrtle at 45 minutes to the end of the boil. The other herbs Wild Rosemary, Yarrow and Mugwort were used up at, 1/3 at a time, at 30, 15 and 0 minutes to the end of the boil. Also, when the boil ended I added 2 cans of whole cranberry sauce and a package of Craisins. The mixture is strained before going into the fermenter. Always go for 1 cup or more of cranberries per gallon. Next time, I may go with frozen if the fresh cranberries aren't available. Evidently, some of the volatile oils of the herbs would cook off quickly. So, I tried this to see how my first gruit would turn out. I used 1/2 package of German Ale Yeast Safale K-97 as I only brew 1 gallon at a time. I will ferment for 2 weeks in a basement on the workbench at about 67-69 degrees. I then age in a mini-fridge starting at 46 F degrees for 2 days, 43 F for 2 days and then finally 40 F to finish out 2 weeks total. Instead of all the temperature rests I suggested in an earlier entry, I tried to hit the ranges of saccharification for wheat (about 125 F to 151 F) and barley (about 145 F to 153 F). So, I hit 145 F, took the pot off the burner, put the lid on it, waited 5 minutes, put it back on the burner, took the lid off and monitored the temperature until it was time to take it off again. I was inside the 125 to 145 F range for 20 minutes and then I was inside the 145 to 153 F degree range. There was a 10 minute mash out trying to keep it just under 170 F.
NOTE: My biggest mistake! Don't try this at home! Watch out if you are reading a recipe for a 5 gallon batch if you brew 1 gallon batches! I took a 5 gallon recipe and ended up with 1 ounce of Bog Myrtle, and 1 1 1/2 ounces each of Wild Rosemary, Mugwort, and Yarrow spread out with 1/3 of each going in at 30, 15 and 0 minutes to the end of the boil. This is WAY TOO MUCH. Don't try this as the amounts need to be 1/5 of what I listed here. One bottle is the equivalent of 5 bottles of gruit ale! I'm going to drink that first one, and only one, slow and make sure I don't have to work the next day!
I am going to test just hovering around a temperature range instead of trying to hit specific resting temps to see if it really makes that much difference in future brewing. I think that if you are brewing with wheat malts you may improve the taste if you can hover in the range of 125 F to 145 F for 20-30 minutes before you hover in the temperature range of 145 F to 153 F 1 hour for the barley.
I may also try various other berries for gruit ale. The books have said that I can use jams of various fruits: lingonberry may be next. Jams or jellies may cause a haze in beer from the pectin.
Paulaner Wiesn Clone Tasting: This last beer coming out of the fridge was a version of Dampfbier, a German Steam beer. I discussed this one at an earlier date. 100% barley malts with White Labs 351? yeast. True Dampfbier needs fermenting temps just over 70 F and is an ale. I fermented this at 67 F in the basement for 2 weeks. It lagered in the fridge for 4 weeks. It resulted in a fine tasting Hefeweizen minus any wheat malts. Certainly, not a Wiesn clone. Nonetheless, it was a fine Hefeweizen.
I used WLP351 Bavarian Weizen Yeast for my clone attempt. However, it seems Wyeast 3056 Bavarian Wheat Blend would be a better choice as true Dampfbier needs to ferment above 70 F and this yeast is rated to go up to 74 F.