Traditional Beer Spices

GaliumodoratumflowersSweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum syn. Asperula odorata) – You may know this plant as a somewhat invasive groundcover, but it has also been utilized for hundreds of years as a herb used to infuse flavour in traditional German wheat beers (Berliner Weiss) and Maywine. The dried leaves are added to create a distinct herbal flavour, reminiscent of sweet hay. Grows to about 6″ high with an indefinite spread. Hardy to USDA Zone 4.

Juniperus communis berriesCommon Juniper (Juniperus communis) – An easy to find wild conifer in most of the northern hemisphere, including parts of Europe. Both the boughs and dark blue berries (often dried) are used to infuse a citrus-resin flavour to beer, in particular Gotlandsdricka, a traditional ale brewed on the island of Gotland off Sweden. This particular juniper has needled foliage and grows an average of 6′ tall by 10′ wide. USDA Zone 2.

 JasminumFlowersSweet Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) – A popular semi-evergreen vine which is widely introduced across the planet. The sweetly scented white blooms are borne from late spring to early fall. These are used to infuse a delicious sweetness to Jasmine Teas as well as a herbal India Pale Ale by Pivecka from the Czech Republic. It is important to positively identify the species before using the blooms, as some Jasmines are poisonous. This vine prefers sheltered sun and grows to 8-15′ tall. USDA zone 7.

erpspatrickBell Heather (Erica cinerea) – There are many cultivars of Bell Heather (which is native to western and central Europe) but the one displayed is ‘PS Patrick’. This species was traditionally used in Scottish ales with the cut sprigs of flowers added much like hops, with one recipe calling for a ratio of 5 parts barley malt to 1 part heather blossoms. These impart a flowery-fruit flavour which some liken to honey. Grows 12″tall by 18-24″ wide on average. USDA zone 5.

Sambucusnigra'Pulverulenta' (2)Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) – This European deciduous shrub has long been utilized for its fragrant white flowers and delicious edible black berry clusters. The bloom clusters are used to procure delicious cordials which some describe as ‘spring in a glass’. They are also utilized to create unique strong beers such as Mork Bock from Denmark. The variegated cultivar ‘Pulverulenta’ is shown, with the shrubs averaging 8-12′ high and wide. Full sun is best for both flower and fruit production. USDA zone 5.

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