Calaguala Ale

Brewed on 16 September 2003. A partial mash-extract brew.

Calaguala, A.K.A. samambaia, is a tropical polypody fern which I first encountered in the form of a potent homemade wine in the mountains of Honduras back in 1996. According to this tropical plant database,

Samambaia, like most ferns, has an intricate, creeping root system; it is this rhizome, as well as the fronds or leaves, that is used most medicinally. The plant historically has been used by the indigenous peoples of Honduras for malignant tumors, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis. In the Amazon rainforest a maceration of the rhizome is used for fever; grated fresh, it is made into a tea for whooping cough and kidney problems. The Boras Indians (in the Peruvian Amazon) prepare the leaves in a drink for coughs. The Witotos Indians (in the northwest Amazon) use the rhizome for treating coughs. Other Peruvian indigenous tribes use the rhizome for problems of the pancreas. Indigenous groups in Latin America use the rhizome and leaves for many different maladies including cancer, psoriasis, peptic ulcers, kidney problems, diarrhea, arthritis, and pains in joints and tendons. It is generally considered throughout the Amazon to be a general tonic, to detoxify the body, and to support the immune system.

Combined with cinchona bark — herbal quinine — this ought to be “good for what ales you.” I found that after two glasses of the calaguala wine in Honduras, I ceased to be bothered by what had up until then seemed like crushing heat and humidity. Then again, that might’ve just been the effect of the alcohol.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5 gal 60 min 0.0 IBUs 40.4 SRM 1.062 1.015 6.2 %


Name Amount %
Pale 2-Row - US 2 lbs 20
Caramel/Crystal 60 - US 8 oz 5
Chocolate - UK 8 oz 5
Crystal 140L - UK 8 oz 5
Roasted Barley - UK 8 oz 5
Liquid Malt Extract - Light - US 6 lbs 60


Name Amount min Type
fresh calaguala (Polypodium decumanum) roots, cooked 64.00 oz 0 min Mash Other
mugwort leaves and tops, dried 2.00 oz 60 min Boil Other
cinchona bark, dried 0.50 oz 20 min Boil Other
calamus root, dried 4.00 oz 0 min Primary Other
licorice root, dried 2.00 oz 0 min Primary Other
Vanilla Bean 1.00 Items 0 min Primary Other
coriander seed, crushed 0.50 oz 0 min Primary Other


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Fermentis Safale S-04 75% 64°F - 69°F


A partial mash-extract beer. Calaguala or samambaia is a type of tropical fern. Back in 2003, my brother Mark brought me a couple of quarts of calaguala rhizomes back from Honduras, along with some cinchona bark, so naturally I had to brew with them.

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