Spices got around. They may have been expensive, but they were still used. Pepper was expensive, but anyone who could buy it did. Really poor people probably wouldn't have used spices, but the really poor farmers probably couldn't afford to make much beer either. So I'd say use Anise. I imagine some would've used the "regular" gruit spices of northern Europe, if they had access to them.
To paraphrase Dr. England - "Off-flavors smooth with time. So do mountains. Brew it right from the start!"
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