experimental beers with a botanical twist

Belgian Gale Ale

Myrica galeBrewed 10 July 2018 in London.

Sweet gale or bog myrtle (Myrica gale) is a classic northern European gruit ingredient, but until this summer, I’d never found a supply of it that wasn’t ridiculously, almost unusably astringent — with little else going for it. Why in the world was it known as sweet gale? Thanks to a Scottish herbal supply company specializing mainly in midge repellent products (a good sign of gale’s antimicrobial powers), I was finally able to find out. My tasting notes: “very light & floral, hint of bitterness – nice!” It went well with the Belgian abbey-style ale yeast.

The moral of the story is, just because something is sold at a homebrew supply shop doesn’t mean it’s worth putting in your brewpot. With other brewing herbs just as with hops, you really need to attend to the quality.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
12 L 60 min 0.0 IBUs 17.6 SRM 1.075 1.016 7.9 %

Fermentables

Name Amount %
Maris Otter Pale - UK 2 kg 51.68
Munich - UK 750 g 19.38
Wheat Malt - DE 500 g 12.92
CaraVienna - BE 150 g 3.88
Belgian Amber Candi Sugar - BE 470 g 12.14

Miscs

Name Amount min Type
juniper berries, crushed 0.35 oz 0 min Mash Other
yarrow leaves, dried 0.53 oz 0 min Boil Other
bog myrtle, dried leaves and seeds 0.35 oz 0 min Boil Other
coriander seeds, crushed 0.35 oz 0 min Boil Other
bog myrtle, dried leaves and seeds 0.65 oz 0 min Secondary Other

Yeast

Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Fermentis Safale BE-256 70% 17.78°C - 20.56°C

Notes

Sweet gale or bog myrtle is a classic northern European gruit herb, but can be hard to get in the US in any form other than really old, overpoweringly bitter, and otherwise lacking in flavor. I took advantage of a visit to the UK to obtain some high-quality bog myrtle from a mail-order supplier (Totally Herby) in Scotland, and it was a night-and-day difference from what I'd attempted to use previously: pleasantly floral with just a hint of bitterness. Add yarrow at beginning of boil, and coriander and bog myrtle 20 minutes from the end. Add remaining bog myrtle to the fermenter after five days or so and age for a couple of weeks before bottling.


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