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Special Ingredient: Bog Myrtle

Also known as Myrica gale, this mud-loving shrub was once a key ingredient in the unhopped ales of medieval Europe—and it has a unique character worth considering for your beers.

Joe Stange Oct 12, 2021 - 5 min read

Special Ingredient: Bog Myrtle Primary Image

Photo: Henrik Larrson, Shutterstock

Before hops gained ground as a beer ingredient, brewers in the Low Countries made gruit. The herb mixture used to flavor those unhopped ales was a key to local power—and bog myrtle was a key ingredient in that mixture.

Also known as Myrica gale, sweetgale, sweet willow, besides many other names, bog myrtle is happiest in the moist and muddy areas of northern climes. The flowering shrub grows in the northernmost United States and most of Canada as well as it does in Northern Europe. Perhaps more numerous than its names are its folk uses: tea, medicine, and insect repellent, to name a few.

Along with mugwort and yarrow, it’s also one of the best-known ingredients in medieval gruit—so, inevitably, some modern brewers also have taken a whack at making beer with it. The Treboom Brewery of North Yorkshire, England, for example, brews Myricale, a pale wheat ale infused with bog myrtle. In Denver, TRVE Brewing collaborated in 2019 with Danish brewery To Øl on a mixed-culture sour beer called Myrican Viking.

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