Gruit or Grut (german for herb)- is a style of beer that instead of hops, a mixture of herbs have been used to bitter and flavor the beer. That’s right, you heard correct, no hops…sorry hop heads! Before the extensive use of hops, a mixture of herbs including but not limited to, sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow, juniper berries, ginger, caraway seed, aniseed, ground ivy, bog myrtle, horehound, pine, spruce, seaweed, and heather were used to add flavor and bitterness to beer. These herbs were the “OG” of hops. But like many beer styles, this ancient beer died off a bit. Many factors went into this, including the passing of the German beer purity law, Reinheitsgebot, which originally stated that water, barley, yeast, and hops were the only ingredients to be used in beer.
Now with all of the craft breweries around brewers are digging deep into ancient beer styles to push their limit and really show the crowd something different and unique. If your palate is burnt out from all the high IBU IPAs this may be a beer for you to try. If you spot one on the shelf definitely grab one as these are unique and not easy to come across. Some beers to keep an eye out are Dogfish Head’s – Kvasir, Cambridge Brewing Co. – Heather Ale, and Weekapaug Gruit Ale, Avery Brewing Co. – Nestor’s Cup, Zero Gravity Craft Brewery – American Flatbread Solstice Gruit Ale. Be on the lookout for words like gruit, grut, gruyt, the un-hopped Finnish gruit beer style – Kyllönen, or Kvass which is Russian for “leaven” and is a 16th century beer esque beverage fermented with what was around with a simple bakers yeast. It’s typically low in alcohol, and often flavored with herbs or fruits to knock the bitter edge out.
Mark your calendars and start searching beer shelves, February 1st is International Gruit Day, just in case you needed an excuse to have a beer.