Sweet gale or bog myrtle is a classic northern European gruit ingredient.
experimental beers with a botanical twist
Achillea millefolium. One of the most versatile brewing herbs, useful for bittering, flavoring, and as a preservative. Use fresh or dried, picked if possible early in the blooming period. The flowering tops are the most flavorful part, but the leaves are good, too.
A native of Europe, it’s widely naturalized in the New World as well. Look for it in old meadows and waste areas. I use it often in part because it’s so easy to collect, both in Pennsylvania and in London, where it crops up in the unmowed portions of city parks.
My first new experiment worth writing up since last year’s Pennsylvania Native Plant Gruit Beer, where I first tried brewing with sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) in a big way. This time I combined it with some other reliable brewing herbs for a trans-Atlantic gruit.
Sassafras and black birch (i.e. wintergreen, more or less) are the dominant notes here; the other flavors blend into a citrusy background. This is a refreshing, summery drink, a bit acidic — imagine a cross between unsweetened herb tea and a nice mild ale.
Fascinating to see yarrow already in use as a brewing herb 3500 years ago. Here, it’s in combination with several bog plants: sweet gale, meadowsweet, cranberries and lingonberries.