Time for a guest post! Bill The Brewer talks about our newest Lips of Faith beer- Gruit.
Gruit: The Ultimate Spring Tonic!
Take a moment to imagine a world where people were much more closely connected to the natural world: a time before modern medicine, when wild herbs, plants, roots, and tree bark held mysterious, alchemical powers. A time before the catalyst and driver of fermentation- yeast- was understood. A time when a beverage could be both food and medicine. Gruit came from this time. It could be said that it was the Lucky Charms of the early Middle Ages. And gruit was not the name for the type of beer, but the name for the herbal mixture that was added to the brew.
New Belgium decided to brew some Gruit. Why? Because we want you to be healthy and happy, of course. And we used a ridiculous amount of herbaceous material for our Gruit. Getting it all together and into the wort was a messy, dusty process. Here is what we used in our Gruit:
Myrica Gale- or bog myrtle- grows in acid bogs and sandy soil in Northwestern Europe and played a huge role in the brewing tradition of several countries. The gale oil, which exudes from the leaves, stems, and berries of the plant, provided flavor and antiseptic properties which acted as a preservative, much like oils from the lupulin gland of hop flowers. The bog myrtle we used looked like a pile of stuff that you would rake up in your yard. In Aromatherapy, bog myrtle is said to be grounding; it will also give relief to those who “squirrel-cage” their thoughts.
Artemisia Absinthium- wormwood- is a frosty looking perennial plant that grows wild in Northern Europe. Indeed, Artemisia’s decorative foliage is found in many cottage gardens today. Biblical references to wormwood imply bitterness. Its scent is said to enhance psychic powers. A very important herb for Moon deities, it was also said to guard against sea serpents. From a brewer’s perspective, it follows that it would be good in beer, due to its bitter flavor, regardless of any psychoactive properties coming from “thujone,” the trippy chemical found within the plant.
Horehound, (Marrubium Vulgare) a relative in the mint family, is also bitter. Medicinally, it is commonly used to ward off colds and ague. But if you practice Majick, you might put it in a protective sachet in order to protect yourself from sorcery. Why we threw five, 5-gallon buckets of dried Horehound leaves into each brew is somewhat beyond me. It is sometimes used in exorcisms. Maybe that’s why.
Achillea Millefolium, or Yarrow, was used medicinally as a tonic, and also to stop bleeding. Always a good thing to put in beer, especially if you are prone to cutting yourself while drinking. It can also be used as a cure for sadness and depression. We used ground yarrow flowers. It looked like turmeric. The best thing about yarrow, in my opinion, are its traditional names: “bad man’s plaything” and “devil’s weed” being the best. But it contains flavonoids, sterols, and bitters- that bitter thing again- and it follows that it would be used in beer.
We also added some real hops, just for good measure, as Gruit usually contained hop flowers. It wasn’t until the Church began to heavily tax the herbal Gruit mixture that hop flowers were used exclusively in brewing.
Exercise your drinking arm, exorcise your demons, and grab a New Belgium Gruit today!
Boom, now you know... Thanks Bill.