Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

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