HEATH AND HEATHER
tradition may be, that all the northern nations, as the Swedes still do, used the narcotic gale (Myrica gale), which grows among the heather, to give bitterness and strength to the barley beer; and hence the belief that the beer was made chiefly of the heather itself."
I do not hold this. I suspect that the ale was metheglin, made of the honey extracted from the heather by the bees. Metheglin is still made round Dartmoor, but it is only good and "heady" when many years old. Avoid that which is younger than three winters. When it is older, drink sparingly.
It is quite certain that the ancient Irish brewed a beer, which we can hardly think came from barley. S. Bridget has left but one poetical composition behind her, and that begins:—
"I should like a great lake of ale
For the King of kings.
I should like the whole company of Heaven
To be drinking it eternally!"
The heath was doubtless largely used in former times, from the Prehistoric Age, not only as a thatch for the huts and hovels, but as a litter for the beds. Indeed, heath or heather is still employed in the Scottish Highlands along with the peat earth as a substitute for mortar between the stones of which a cottage is built. And that heather was employed for bedding who can question? Leather is tanned
- Yet there is the Devonshire white ale—the composition of which is a secret—that is still drunk in the South Hams, and in one tavern in Tavistock. It is a singular, curdy liquor, in the manufacture of which egg is employed. Is heath used also? Quien sabe?