Thousands of years ago when beer was first discovered people quickly realised it was too sweet to enjoy in any large quantity and as they had acquired a taste for alcohol’s intoxicating effects they needed to introduce a bitter taste to counteract the sweetness and therefore make it more drinkable. This is where Bog Myrtle or Myrica Gale to give it it’s Latin name comes in, it was used along with other shrubs, plants and herbs instead of hops which were introduced to Britain in the fifteenth century by Flemish immigrants, although at one point hops were prohibited as it was thought they were a negative influence on true British beer. So you can produce your very own historic ale using Bog Myrtle just replace the hops in your recipe with the leaves and catkins (fresh or dried) from the Bog Myrtle shrub to add a unique flavour to your beer. It goes well with light coloured beers as the flavours compliment each other. However if you really want to go for it and produce an authentic medieval style beer it would be best to use dark and brown malt along with a less than efficient brewing process to replicate Medieval brewing. There’s more information on this on the link below.
Here is a handy link to ‘Brew Your Own’ which has an interesting article on brewing using herbs as a replacement for hops, along with a bit of history about brewing in Europe.
How to Grow Bog Myrtle
You can grow Bog Myrtle from seed or from softwood cuttings but I cheated and bought mine at the garden centre. It will look after itself and is a very hardy shrub as long as you have the right soil. It can be found in places like the North York Moors so in order to grow this in your garden your soil will need to have a similar makeup. It thrives in poorly drained soil with either clay or loam.