View Full Version : Heather Mead

10-19-2012, 04:09 PM
Can anyone tell me if heather can be used in making mead, and if so at what point in the making of the mead would I add the heather?



10-19-2012, 05:29 PM
No doubt it has. It features in many a poem, even the one about Picts and mead. Personally I don't know what the plant is though.
You can choose to make a tea, or ferment the leaf or bark or use the fermented alcohol to extract afterwards.
Do a search on heather, if it's been used in beer it'll work in mead.

10-19-2012, 06:20 PM
I find it fascinating that the underside of heather leaves commonly contain a "ergot-like" fungus. Ergot being the fungus that infects rye, and which LSD is derived from. Apparently in Europe its use is strictly regulated because this fungus is also hallucinogenic.
I could have sworn I read that heather tips are used to initiate fermentation of old style (read Scottish) meads, but I can't find a link.

10-19-2012, 08:48 PM
Heather is used in older Scottish ales. Currently there is one Scottish brewer that uses heather in its ale, so I was thinking that it could be used in mead as well.

10-20-2012, 06:56 PM
One of my favourite beers is Fraoch which is an ale which uses heather and bogmyrtle instead of hops. I'm heavily considering getting hold of some heather for my next batch of mead.

10-20-2012, 07:03 PM
This book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0937381667) has a lot of good info on heather mead. And indeed, the Picts and other ancient Scots utilized the natural fungus frequently found on the flowers to start fermentation of their meads. I wish it were more common here in the states, but I suppose one less thing on the "to-do list" isn't such a bad thing. :rolleyes:

10-21-2012, 12:19 AM
In response to the OP.
I had suspected, and subsequent posts have confirmed. Heather was used 'in place' of hops. Or more correctly, was used before hops became almost universal.
Thus it's primarily a bittering agent.
You will get a different and perhaps not do nice taste if you don't boil it.
If some research states that it is a good aromatic, I'd use some in mead. Your best bet is to accustom yourself with how beers are made, and then follow that procedure but with mead.

10-21-2012, 02:14 AM
I knew that of the 2 main types of heather, the honey from bell heather is considered superior to that of ling heather. The later can give very woody notes (apparently).

Also, that it'd been used as a bittering agent.

I wasn't aware of the fungal fermentation thing though.......

Chevette Girl
10-21-2012, 01:10 PM
I wasn't aware of the fungal fermentation thing though.......

Don't forget that yeast is a fungus too... According to Wikipedia, ergot derivatives are currently used to treat some medical problems but as with anything, too much can cause problems, although it only contains a precusor to LSD, it's only the lysergic acid part...

10-21-2012, 03:24 PM
Ergot does cause hallucinogenic effects, and I imagine a mead fermented with the ergot-like fungus would have an "extra something" not a true hallucinogenic effect, but maybe akin to the alcohol in certain chocolates: you won't get drunk, but maybe an extra head-rush on top of the chocolate.
Anyways, it is one of those interesting occurrences like the cockroach being related to the lobster, or hops and cannabis.

10-24-2012, 09:55 PM
I believe ergot fungus was used in the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Vance G
10-24-2012, 10:55 PM
It could also cause internal bleeding and any pregnant women drinking it to abort. It is a poison not a buzz weed.

10-24-2012, 11:09 PM
It is poisonous, but the problem with poisonous substances is dosage. Thiamine is vital for human health, but it is very easy do die from excess thiamine. Same with thujone (wormwood substance in absinthe), and many other natural chemicals.
I think it would be an interesting experiment to try a heather fermentation, but strict caution should be taken.

11-12-2012, 06:43 PM
I have finally unearthed my copy of "Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation"

It's section of heather was so extensive that I haven't finished reading it yet, let alone selected quotes to place here.
It has recipes for heather ale and also heather mead.
I'll try to post an update tonight if I can fit it in between the woodturning club, 3 week old baby, tired and cranky wife, sleep, and doing whatever is still unfinished, hanging around the kitchen. (btw, I'm GMT +10, so tonight's a fair while away ;-) )