I am thinking of brewing a a heather ale for the upcoming holiday season. Does anyone have any information or experience using the heather plant in the brewing process?
Contact Andrew over at John Harvards in Monroeville. I know he has used it in a Scotch Ale before
You should try and get in touch with Will Meyers at Cambridge Brewing Company in Massachussetts. He brews a KILLER Heather Ale and I'm sure he can give you some valuable advice.
I make a Wee Heavy that has no hops, only heather additions and it's one of my best (and most award-winning) brews. Very unusual flavor and aroma. I read somewhere heather has approximately 4 IBUs so that's what I base my recipe on, and it seems about right. This is homebrewing, though, a commercial brewer would probably do well to send a sample out.
I use only heather tips, which include varying amounts of the actual flowers in them. I've gotten better results from batches with a smaller proportion of flowers and more of the green tips.
Look in Randy Mosher's great book "Radical Brewing". He devotes quite a few pages to Heather and its history in beer.