BeerMumbo: What is a gruit ale? Take a trip to the past for an original craft beer

I am sure you are wondering what a “Gruit Ale” is.

There is evidence of beer brewing dates back to the 5th millennium BC and believe it or not, prior to the 16th Century, hops were rarely used in brewing beer.

Bittering and flavoring consisted of herbs and botanical creations.  This was gruit ale and it’s what every drinker had in their beer mug. From the Egyptians to the Knights of the Round Table, gruit was the only option.   

When the Reinheitsgebot purity law was established in Bavaria, it became illegal to brew beer with anything other than water, malt, and hops.

If a brewer was caught violating the purity law, his/her precious beer would be confiscated without compensation. What a shame! Gruit ale eventually phased out and hops were the weapon of choice.

The gruit style was pretty much lost to history until the 1990s when microbreweries started branching out with their concoctions and recreated some of these old recipes. Basically what I am saying is, gruit stands as the backbone of the craft beer phenomenon we are currently experiencing.

There are a few breweries creating traditional gruit style ales today such as Dogfish Head, New Belgium , Mt. Pleasant and Midnight Sun to name a few.

These recreations must be appreciated with an open palate to the style and historical value.  Go to your local bottle shop and check out their supply for a gruit ale.

What kind of herbs, spices, botanicals are traditionally used in a gruit ale?

Traditional Herbs:
S weet Gale (Bog Myrtle)
Yarrow
Wild Rosemary

Other Common Herbs/Additions:
Juniper
Mugwort
Wormwood
Labrador Tea
Heather
Bog Heather
Licorice
Sage
Black Henbane
Ginger
Caraway Seed
Aniseed
Nutmeg
Cinnamon

Brewing gruit ale has unlimited possibilities and each batch can be a blank slate. The ability to create beer that tingles your lips is also likely. 

For a list of gruit recipes you can get started on, click here courtesy of BeerMumbo.


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