In this scary time of skyrocketing hop prices and the possibility of not even being able to find certain varieties of hops, what's a homebrewer to do? Perhaps gruit (GREW – it).
What is gruit and why have I never had one?
Gruit is ale brewed without hops. Usually spices are substituted for hops in order to add some biterness to the wort. I have heard of people using all sorts of spices when brewing a gruit. The most popular being spruce, yarrow, juniper berries, mugwort, and heather tips. Sounds like something that might go in a witch’s cauldron, right?
With the exception of a few microbreweries, very few people even brew gruit. Gruit appears to be a drink that went out of favor by the 16th century. For an interesting read check out the historical context section of the wiki page on gruit. My favorite explanation of why it fell out of popularity is because of a “Protestant crackdown on feisty Catholic tradition, and as a Puritan move to try and keep people from enjoying themselves with aphrodisiac and stimulating gruit ales by imposing the sedative effects of hops instead.” Those crazy Catholics and their intoxicating gruit! Maybe Catholics just gruit better (I could keep this up all day).
I think sometime in the next couple of weeks I might brew a small test batch of gruit. I’m thinking spruce and juniper berries. If you see me picking things off trees in your backyard, don’t shoot me. That’s the great thing about homebrewing the ability to get creative. Who knows maybe you’ll come up with something that’s a real crowd pleaser.
A great gruit resource that I found online is: gruitale.com.
Until next time,