The pursuit of Gruit part 1
Gruit ale was once one of the most popular styles of ale in Europe, however now you will struggle to find anyone selling it. This is partly understandable as the lack of hops means it won’t last very long, but not one plucky little brewer is really doing it so I guess we’ll have to.
This task is a little bigger than some may realise though. There are actually few records on Gruit recipes and those who have devoted time to recreating it agree as much as they disagree.
In general three ingredients are seen as common, Yarrow, Myrica Gale (Sweet Gale, Bog Myrtle) and Marsh Rosemary. Though there is even disagreement here, Marsh Rosemary (Wild Rhododendron, Rhododendron tomentosum) and Sweet Gale might not be used together as they grow in different areas and have a similar effect. Adding both add an overpowering and frankly disgusting taste.
The lack of hops is also a very odd sensation, you don’t realise how much they add until you have had unhoped beer. With just these basic ingredients you make a drink that taste more like cider than beer and not a pleasant one. So we can create Gruit, but it isn’t exactly great. The real question is then, how do we make Gruit good without losing it’s roots?
Note : Marsh Rosemary is also has some unpleasant side effects in large doses, so best to avoid that one. Labrador Tea is an alternative.
These are not the only ingredients however as recipes will also suggest mugwort, ground ivy, honey, heather and pretty much anything you can get your hands on. It seems that Gruit was very much an everything and the kitchen sink type of drink, but getting it too taste right is much more difficult. Now standards of water weren’t high at the time, so anything would probably have been a better alternative. But both our Crofter’s Ale and Mum’s Mumme are from a similar period and rival modern brews, so for Gruit to have such widespread popularity it must have tasted good. This is where experimenting will come in, which I will talk abou