Posts Tagged ‘gruit’

Always Learning

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Sorry for the lack of updates and all the critical posts these days. This month is move in for the clients we’ve been developing a home for. With training, meetings, plus my normal work schedule blogging has fallen by the wayside.


When I first got into homebrewing I was talking with a fellow brewer and had remarked that he knew everything about brewing. He responded with one of those cheesy you can’t know everything about brewing because your always learning comments. I knew then that what he said was true, but it never really seemed relevant until today.

When I first started this blog in February I was just starting to get serious about beer and made learning about brewing a priority. Because of this 2009 has seen huge leaps in my brewing skills and knowledge. No surprise then that when I pulled out my witches brew gruit recipe I made in February I couldn’t stop laughing. My early attempts at recipe development show my lack of knowledge about the brewing process at the beginning of this year.

Here’s what the recipe looked like when I first wrote it and brewed it

7lb light malt extract
3/4 lb Roasted Barley
1/4 lb Chocolate Malt
1/4 lb 60 Crystal Malt
1/4 lb CaraPills
1 tsp Irish Moss
2.5 oz Yarrow @ 1hr
1.5 oz Bogmyrtle @ 1hr
1 oz Sweet Gale add to fermentor
1 oz Fennel Seed @ 1 hr
Nottingham Ale Yeast

Since February I have switched from using the same light liquid malt extract for every beer to using a a few different dry extracts. I know some people think a serious homebrewer should be brewing all grain, but for my budget, equipment, and storage space malt extract works best, and with practice and knowledge you can brew really good extract based beer.

Another interesting thing is the original recipe has all the herbs being added for the full one hour boil except sweet gale. Apparently I didn’t follow my own instructions because I opened a bottle of this stuff a few weeks ago and there were some (not much though) complex herbal flavors. In those early brewing attempts my ability to get all the ingredients in the wort at the same time was limited since I was brewing highly concentrated wort in a spaghetti pot. This means some of the herbs were added, the pot became to full, I split the boil into two pots and then added the rest of the herbs. Also I didn’t have a scale at the time for measuring my ingredients, so my weights were guesstimates. Perhaps it’s better that this beer became a sour ale.

Needless to say I completely tore apart this recipe and rebuilt it from the ground up for brewing this morning. Now I just gotta pull that recipe down after I get back from yet another training/meeting.

A Fresh Perspective

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009


Yesterday I talked about my inability to brew gruit, Turns out I may have spoken too soon.

Today’s post is late, but that could be a good thing. Instead of updating my blog before meeting up with Dan I decided to swing by Homebrew Heaven and the library. The reason why I was heading out to the beer shop wasn’t to get my ingredients for the Reese’s Stout. Instead I went bringing beer. I brought Dug a bottle of Rose Red, and Witches Brew Gruit. I plan on entering my Rose Red in a homebrew competition in April and needed help understanding the categories.

Even though it wasn’t even noon Doug and I opened the gruit and he poured two glasses while I discussed the problems I was having with it. Turns out the gruit may not be a “bad” beer

per say. As I tried to explain how horrible it was to him he just nodded and sipped. Then he proceeded to explain that although he had no experience with gruits that the problem might lie in my particular beer being extremely susceptible to infection, so there goes my oxidation theory. I guess I was hoping for a magic answer that was an easy fix. Also he said that the sour flavor wasn’t a bad thing. Turns out Doug likes sour beers like lambics, and from a sour beer stance this beer is different, but drinkable.

This idea intrigued me, so I started sipping on my glass. Turns out that if you sip on it, instead of drinking it, it really isn’t too bad. Don’t get me wrong, I still think my gruit failed. It doesn’t taste even close to how I wanted it. But I’m no longer looking at this beer as a complete failure. Even though I’m not a lambic fan (and this actually isn’t a real lambic), and I won’t brew this in the same way again, I don’t think I’ll dump all this now.

Only one thing remains. Anyone brave enough to try it?

I Can’t Brew Gruits

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

beerfailMy gruit finished carbonating last week, and it looks like I have five more gallons of meat marinade. I skipped putting it in my small carboy to clear and just siphoned right off the yeast cake in the six gallon carboy, and straight into the bottling bucket. I also pulled a glass for sampling and testing the final gravity. The FG came out just around 1.01, and the sample tasted awesome. Thinking everything was gravy I added the priming sugar and bottled. I even went as far as to sanitize my caps, something I don’t usually do. Needless to say I was excited to have this batch turn out.

Two weeks later I popped the top on one of the ones from the reused cap experiment. It was flat. Apparently some of the caps didn’t reseal like I’d hoped. I decided to try it anyway to see how it tasted. It tasted exactly like the last batch. It had an herbal flavor, but there was such an overpowering sweet/tart flavor that I could barely swallow. This bottle didn’t seal properly though right? Maybe it was a case of the same infection that I thought had taken my last batch. I reached into the other case and grabbed one that used a brand new cap and popped the top. This hiss told me it sealed which was exciting, so I poured it in a glass. Turns out this one tasted the same. In fact they all did.

Somewhere along the line this recipe keeps going south. I sent out a couple of inquiries, and am waiting to hear back from another brewer who’s done gruits before. Right now it appears that something in the beer is causing it to oxidize like crazy. You think it’d be easy to tell since oxidation has a unique flavor, but the problem is, if this is oxidation it’s so strong, and unplanned for, that it’s ridiculous. Hopefully I can figure out what’s up soon though, because the flavors it has when it comes out of the carboy are awesome, and it is a brew I really want to succeed.

If anyone out there has any experience brewing gruits and can give me advice I’d appreciate it. When I swing by Homebrew Heaven to talk to Doug I’ll also check with him to see what he thinks.

Gruit Fluff

Thursday, February 26th, 2009


When I mention my gruit recipe, the two most common reactions are to either accuse me of blasphemy for not having hops, or absolute confusion. This has led me to the belief that whenever I discuss gruit I need to give whoever I’m talking to a nice long history lesson.  So here is a breakdown of what gruit is, and why I think it’s a beer style that needs to make a come back.

The first thing you need to know to understand gruit is that beer was not always brewed with hops. The funny part about this is craft beer drinkers don’t like this idea, they just cover their ears and pretend they can’t hear you. For you Bud and Coors drinkers out there I guess I should tell you what hops are since you’ve never tasted them 😀 Hops are an herb related to cannibis that is used to bitter the beer and help preserve the liquid with it’s antiseptic qualities. Hops however didn’t grow everywhere. People throughout the world though made their beverages anyway using bitter antiseptic herbs that grew locally. The main candidates that were used that have survived to modern recipes are Yarrow, Sweet Gale, Marsh Rosemary, Mugwort, and Labrador Tea. The problem with early gruits is a lot of the herbs brewers were adding to their beer were narcotics, and they knew it. As the church spread throughout Europe there were ways they came up with to remove some of the narcotic qualities, but people ignored them. Although the decline of gruit is really complex it’s probably not a stretch to believe that as hops made their way into brewing the narcotic effects of herbs like Sweet Gale gave gruit a bad name in some circles. Although many areas in Northern Europe managed to hold out against the change to hops for a long time change was inevitable as it became possible to get fresh hops in areas where they couldn’t be grown. Nowadays gruit has been relegated to a specialty beer brewed by people who are curious about history, and the tastes of early beers. Gruits have all the body and malt flavors of a well brewed beer, but have an herbal aroma, and a unique taste that I happen to like. With the availability of a lot of these herbs though it can be a pain to procure the supplies to make one. Since the history bit turned out to be long I’ll just toss up the recipe tomorrow. Hopefully Doug gets better so I can procure my grains