The Original Craft Beer: Gruit Ale

IMG_20130609_174700I am sure you are wondering what a “Gruit Ale” is.  If you lay out the history of beer on a timeline, it obviously spans for thousands of years due to being so awesome.  Evidence of brewing beer dates back to the 5th millennium BC.  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 booze 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 1990′s 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. I’ve gotten some pushback on this thought, however, I’ll stand by it. It’s creativity. It’s thinking outside of the box. The current industry is all of the above. We may not see ancient Gruit ale flying off the shelves but, we do see the nature of gruit in our homebrew and micro taprooms everyday.

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:
Sweet 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.  Here are some gruit ale recipes for those adventurous enough.  These were discovered after trolling through forums/websites.  I cannot guarantee the quality or end result.  Try them or create your own in true Gruit Style.  If you are a homebrewer living in Colorado, I am pretty sure you have been debating a Colorado Gruit.  I will leave it at that…

 RECIPES

Double Gruit
A sweet and earthy beer
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Ingredients
  1. 5lbs - US 2-Row
  2. 2lbs - Crystal 60
  3. 1lb - Cara Red
  4. 1lb - Wildflower Honey (add at 30 minutes)
Add to boil
  1. .5oz - Mugwort @ 45 minutes
  2. 1oz - Heather Tips @ 45 minutes
  3. .5oz - Mugwort @ 15 minutes
  4. 1oz - Heather Tips @ 15 minutes
  5. 2 grams - @ 0 minutes
Secondary
  1. 2oz - Labrador Tea
  2. 2oz - Yarrow
  3. Yeast: WY1968
Instructions
  1. Single infusion @ 152 degrees for 60 minutes
http://beermumbo.com/
Gruit Ale #1
I rich yet slightly sweet ale with a subtle bitterness
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Ingredients
  1. 14 lbs - US 2-Row
  2. 9 oz - Crystal 120
  3. 8 oz - Crystal 40
  4. 6 oz - Munich Malt
  5. 6 oz - Oatmeal Flakes
  6. 5 oz - Roasted Barley
  7. 1 oz - Mugwort @ 60 minutes
  8. 1 oz - Heather Tips @ 60 minutes
  9. .5 oz - Mugwort @ 15 minutes
  10. 1 gram - Heather Tips @ 0 minutes
  11. Yeast - WY1968
Instructions
  1. Do an infusion mash at 151 degrees.
  2. Primary fermentation - 21 days
  3. Secondary fermentation - 14 days
http://beermumbo.com/
Gaelic Dreams
No description
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Ingredients
  1. 8lbs - US 2-Row
  2. 1lb - Crystal 40
  3. .5lb - Crystal 60
  4. .125lb - Roasted Barley
Add to boil
  1. .75oz - Mugwort @ 60 minutes
  2. .25oz - Mugwort @ 20 minutes
  3. .25oz - Mugwort @ 0 minutes
  4. Yeast: American Ale
Instructions
  1. Single infusion @ 154 for 60 minutes
http://beermumbo.com/
Pog Mo Thoin Gruit Ale III
medium dark amber/yellow and had an herb-like flavor that mellowed with time
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Ingredients
  1. 12lbs - US 2-Row
  2. 2lbs - Crystal 40
  3. 2lbs - Melanoidin Malt
Add to mash
  1. 55 grams - Yarrow
  2. 55 grams - Marsh Rosemary
  3. 2 grams - Myrica Gale
Add to boil
  1. 30 grams - Yarrow @ 60 minutes
  2. 30 grams Marsh Rosemary @ 60 minutes
  3. 2 grams Myrica Gale @ 60 minutes
  4. Yeast: American Ale
Instructions
  1. Single infusion @ 149 for 90 minutes
http://beermumbo.com/
Yarrow Ale
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Ingredients
  1. 3lbs - Light DME
  2. 3oz - Fresh Yarrow flowers and leaves @ 60 minutes
  3. .8 grams - Sweet Gale @ 60 minutes
  4. 2oz - Fresh Yarrow flowers and leaves @ 5 minutes
  5. Yeast: American Ale
Instructions
  1. No mash
  2. bottle when fermentation is complete
http://beermumbo.com/