Beer, Wine – Woodruff and Maibowle

Waiting for Woodruff

Maibowle is a German speciality, once common in the UK, too. With that heritage, it must be (or once have been) present in the US.

 I pick woodruff in April and tie it in bundles, which are hung in a shady space to dry. As they dry, they give off an adorable aroma and I am champing at the bit to hang a sprig or two of the fully-dried bundle in some dry white wine, but also in a wheat beer. The picture shows a Berlin glass built for the purpose.

Pale Ales

Brewers of traditional Pale Ales and IPAs might be aware that historically, highly hopped and 12 month matured Pale Ales were likened to white wines. We are talking of OG above 1090. I have tried it and understand where the writers were coming from, but it is a slightly fanciful description.

Artist John Munday’s drawing of Woodruff. This one is a day too late for beer. Those flowers need to be closed.

Furthermore, I used hopping rates of over 300g (10 oz) for a 45l (10 gal) gyle. Shorter than 12 months maturity and they were pretty undrinkable. After 12 months (when they have reached the white-wine description) there would be little point in expecting the gentleness of Woodruff to make much impact, but we are not looking for huge impact – just a new nuance to enhance our hobby of brewing awesome beers, and the woodruff flavour can be adjusted by varying the length of time the bundle resides in the beer.

OK. Why am I telling you this well into May?

Plan ahead.

Find some woodruff in a shady woodland, or from your plant nursery and plant it in a half to full shade spot. It’s used to dampness although shade is most important – the forest atmosphere is where it gets off. If you plant now, you will have plenty to play with next year.


Woodruff – Asperula adurata. Waldmeister in German.

Harvest April – dry and use in May. Once the flowers open it is too late to dry, but one can use the flowers to make a delicious tea. Personally, I prefer the beauty of the flowers across my garden. They spread to cover any bare patch of earth, but don’t upset other plants.

Woodruff in flower. Too late for beer but perfect for tea.

Published by Clive La Pensée

Clive La Pensée, ex-science teacher, recognised writer on history of beer, novelist, expressionist, dreamer, believer in never giving up, empathiser, hopeful for a future without class, gender or racial prejudice. It's tough and at the moment, one has to remember distance travelled, rather than where we are at.

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