mugwort

Fugwort Stout (A.K.A. Muggle Stout)

Brewed on 3 February 2015. A five-gallon batch.

Grains

  • Briess Organic pale 2-row pale malt, 8 lbs.
  • unmalted roasted barley, 3/4 lbs.
  • rolled oats, 1 lb.
  • Briess chocolate malt, 1/2 lb.
  • Briess caramel 80°L malt, 1/2 lb.
  • Dingemans debittered black malt, 1/2 lb.
  • Muntons crystal dark malt, 1/2 lb.

Other sugars

  • some very old, rock-hard dried malt extract, approx. 1 pint
    (next time I’ll probably just use a pound or two of honey)
  • light dried malt extract for bottling, 1 1/4 cups

Herbs

  • Fuggles hops (pellets), 1 oz.
  • dried mugwort tops and leaves, 1 packed pint

Yeast

  • Nottingham dried ale yeast, two 11.5 g. packages in 1-qt. starter with 1/2 c. dried malt extract

Procedure

Two-step infusion mash at 130°F and 155°F. I added the hops an hour, and the mugwort ten minutes, before the end of the boil, all of it loose (not in bags). I bottled two weeks later and it was ready to drink by the middle of March.

Results

This was one of my two most successful experiments of the winter brewing season, and the first I’ve used hops in fifteen years. I wanted to make it basically because the portmanteaus amused me, but as it happened, mugwort and Fuggles hops go together in more ways than just linguistically. Mugwort is an extremely dependable brewing herb with a unique, pleasant-yet-also-bittering taste, which means that like hops it can work fine all by itself. What I was aiming for here was a malt-forward, sweetish stout with an earthy, exotic flair, and much to my surprise, that’s exactly what I got. I’m told that in Harry Potter land, muggles are squares who don’t believe in magic. That’s fine—I don’t believe in magic, either. Brewing is a science… and an art. (Says the guy who still can’t be bothered to measure specific gravity.)

I finally acquired an immersion wort chiller this past Christmas, so my process now is a lot less time-consuming (no more preparation of two gallons of chilled tea and lots of little ice bottles) and more energy-efficient (no more boiling down all afternoon just to make room for the addition of said chilled tea).

A note about mugwort

I was reminded by a discussion at a Pennsylvania native plants Facebook group this past week that Artemisia vulgaris is invasive in many parts of North America and can be a really pernicious weed. I had to abandon a vegetable garden once because a friend had given us some cuttings for companion planting—she thought it was wormwood—and it took over. So if you want to brew with it, either get it from an herb supplier, find places where you can gather it in the wild (which is what I do), or plant it in a container. Gather the tops just before they flower in the fall, or the leaves anytime, and dry before use—or be prepared for a lot of very mucilaginous goo in your brewpot. Here’s Maude Grieve on the medicinal properties. (“Until recent years, it was still used in some parts of the country to flavour the table beer brewed by cottagers.” Love that! I’m going to start referring to myself as a cottager. I do live in a cottage, after all.)