Beer Styles 201: What is a Gruit Ale?
Gruit Ale: what it is, why it’s used, health benefits, and how it is regulated is all explained in this Beer Styles 201 article.
By The Beer Community on Jan. 13, 2017
What is a Gruit Ale?
Gruit Ales are beers that are brewed with botanicals instead of hops.
“Gruit” refers to a blend of herbs, not a specific beer style. Gruit, like fruit can be added to ales to change their flavour profiles.
What is Gruit?
Gruit is a herb mixture that is used for bittering and flavouring beer. Before hops, herbs, spices and flora were used to give beer flavour. These were called Gruit. Gruit is the German word for herbs. Before the Reinheitsgebot (the German Purity Laws) were created there were no beer standards. Brewers could put whatever they wanted in beers and they took full advantage of that.
Gruit Essential Information:
Why use Gruit in beer?
Some brewers put gruit in with good intentions, like to take advantage of the herbs medicinal properties while others not so good.
Is all Gruit good?
For example, some of the herbs like henbane or stinging nettle were used to preserve the beer, but actually had poisonous and other dangerous qualities which the brewers ignored.
How was Gruit regulated?
The German Purity laws were enacted to prevent brewers from wantonly disregarding the effects of dangerous gruits. Gruits when used correctly were able to give the beer flavour and enabled the brewer to use some creativity.
Gruit beers today:
Try some gruit beers and see what you think:
Here are some of our favourites:
Heather Ale – Salt Spring Island Ales (British Columbia)
Saturnalia Dark Gruit Ancient Ale – Salt Spring Island Ales (British Columbia)
Special Herbs – Upright Brewing Company (Portland)
Plaid to the Bone – Picaroons Traditional Ales (New Brunswick)
We also liked the recommendations in Spike Carter’s article from Bloomberg Pursuits.
Now that you know more about Gruit Beers, catch up on other beer styles:
Beer Styles 201: What is a Wheat Beer?
Wheat Beers: where they come from, their appearance, flavour & aroma, palate & mouthfeel, food pairings and serving suggestions are all explained in this Beer Styles 201 article.
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