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The Gruit Beer Thread

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frankvw

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After comparing some gruit herbs by taste a few days ago (see my previous post in this thread) I did the same with Wormwood and Quassia, which I intend to use as a bittering agent. I followed the same procedure (pour 250ml. of boiled water onto the herb and steep for 5 minutes, then taste), however I only used 1/4 teaspoon of the herb this time rather than one teaspoon in order to keep the bitterness from going nuclear. I've tried to compare the taste to the bitterness of the previously tested herbs (keeping in mind that taste is always subjective) and then multiplied the below figures by for to compensate for the reduced amount. You will note that my initial scale of 0-5 has been catastrophically exceeded. :)


Gruit Herb

Bitterness (0-5)

Sweetness (0-5)

Astringency (0-5)

Vegetal (0-5)

Other

Wormwood

28

0

0

0

0

Quassia
320
0

0

0

Interestingly, neither Wormwood nor Quassia had a harsh bitterness. While the Quassia is definitely more bitter than the Wormwood, the character of the bitterness is about the same. I perceived no other flavors, just bitterness. If other flavors are present they are entirely overwhelmed by the bitterness.

In the previous test Horehound was the most bitter, but also had a lot of astringency (suggesting that there's quite some tannin at work there) which made the bitterness rather rough and unpleasant. On balance, I would prefer to derive bitterness from Wormwood and/or Quassia rather than from Horehound.
 
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Miraculix

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After comparing some gruit herbs by taste a few days ago (see my previous post in this thread) I did the same with Wormwood and Quassia, which I intend to use as a bittering agent. I followed the same procedure (pour 250ml. of boiled water onto the herb and steep for 5 minutes, then taste), however I only used 1/4 teaspoon of the herb this time rather than one teaspoon in order to keep the bitterness from going nuclear. I've tried to compare the taste to the bitterness of the previously tested herbs (keeping in mind that taste is always subjective) and then multiplied the below figures by for to compensate for the reduced amount. You will note that my initial scale of 0-5 has been catastrophically exceeded. :)


Gruit Herb

Bitterness (0-5)

Sweetness (0-5)

Astringency (0-5)

Vegetal (0-5)

Other

Wormwood

28

0

0

0

0

Quassia
320
0

0

0

Interestingly, neither Wormwood nor Quassia had a harsh bitterness. While the Quassia is definitely more bitter than the Wormwood, the character of the bitterness is about the same. I perceived no other flavors, just bitterness. If other flavors are present they are entirely overwhelmed by the bitterness.

In the previous test Horehound was the most bitter, but also had a lot of astringency (suggesting that there's quite some tannin at work there) which made the bitterness rather rough and unpleasant. On balance, I would prefer to derive bitterness from Wormwood and/or Quassia rather than from Horehound.
[/QUOTEl
Keep in mind that your beer does not need to have bitterness. If you use a normal type of yeast (not talking about the ultra low attenuating strains that are out there), then the beer won´t be too sweet at the end, even without much bitterness. But you certainly can have some bitterness, if desired.

I brewed many herbal beers without any hops and without much bitterness, I never had a sweet one beneath them. I still have a few bottles here, that must be now over 2 years old. They were souring, as there were no hops inside to surpress the lactos. So be mentally prepared to have a sour beer, if you brew without hops. Some guys here managed to keep their herbal beers from souring, I personally never was that lucky. But it does not taste bad, they all had a nice level of sourness, not too much.

And btw. just to be that guy that gives too much about small unrelevant details, these herbs we are talking about are mostly not gruit herbs and the beers we are talking about are mostly not gruit beers. More about this topic in Susans papers. Specifically the "Rise and fall of gruit" covers this topic. I like to call them herbal beers, because that is what they actually are. technically speaking, hops are also kind of herbs... so "normal" beers are also herbal beers.... hmm... well, let´s stay with herbal beers for the beers that have other herbs than hops inside, being it additional to hops or replacement of the hops entirely.
 
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frankvw

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Keep in mind that your beer does not need to have bitterness. If you use a normal type of yeast (not talking about the ultra low attenuating strains that are out there), then the beer won´t be too sweet at the end, even without much bitterness. But you certainly can have some bitterness, if desired.
Personally I do. I like the balance. I always compare it to coffee: without a teaspoon of sugar in it the coffee tastes too bitter, but that same teaspoon of sugar in a glass of water is far too sweet. You need both in the mix. By my taste, anyway. :)

But you point that bitterness is not compulsory and that out-of-the-box thinking is a good thing is well taken. And because I personally don't like sour beers styles (from Lambic to Gose) I'm adding some sage as well as an antimicrobial agent, plus a pair crossed fingers.
 
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Miraculix

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Personally I do. I like the balance. I always compare it to coffee: without a teaspoon of sugar in it the coffee tastes too bitter, but that same teaspoon of sugar in a glass of water is far too sweet. You need both in the mix. By my taste, anyway. :)

But you point that bitterness is not compulsory and that out-of-the-box thinking is a good thing is well taken. And because I personally don't like sour beers styles (from Lambic to Gose) I'm adding some sage as well as an antimicrobial agent, plus a pair crossed fingers.
I never brewed with sage, it has a strong taste, so be sure to check out before with a tea that your herbal combination fits.

From all my experiments, by far my favourite herb has been fresh ground ivy. It can be found nearly everywhere and it tastes nice. However, it tastes horrible during the first three weeks after carbonation, you have to wait it out, trust me, the flavour will dramatically change within this time frame. After that, it is really nice.

Also, the beers that included ground ivy where the ones that were almost not souring, so it seems to have an antimicrobial effect.
 

z-bob

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Ground ivy is one of my enemies. I could get rid of it, but it crawls back under the fence because my neighbor has let it totally take over his back yard. Anyway, I made a tea with it once because I'd read that it was a good brewing herb (and that's how it got to America; Europeans brought it here). It just tasted "green". No bitterness, no mint, nothing. Is there a specific time you're supposed to harvest it? Like maybe when it's blooming, or before it blooms, or...
 
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Miraculix

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Ground ivy is one of my enemies. I could get rid of it, but it crawls back under the fence because my neighbor has let it totally take over his back yard. Anyway, I made a tea with it once because I'd read that it was a good brewing herb (and that's how it got to America; Europeans brought it here). It just tasted "green". No bitterness, no mint, nothing. Is there a specific time you're supposed to harvest it? Like maybe when it's blooming, or before it blooms, or... It
I don't know but I always harvested mid to late summer. And the smell and taste was very distinctive.

You're sure you got the right plant and not some of the herbs that look similar?

The stem of it should be square, if that's the case, you should have the right one.
 

z-bob

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Thin square stems, round leaves; I think they are slightly scalloped. Small purple flowers that grow in spikes. It runs along the ground rooting at every node and even chokes out the grass. And it laughs at most weed killers. (triclopyr works, especially applied in the fall) Perhaps I tasted it in the spring when it was too lush.
 
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Miraculix

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Thin square stems, round leaves; I think they are slightly scalloped. Small purple flowers that grow in spikes. It runs along the ground rooting at every node and even chokes out the grass. And it laughs at most weed killers. (triclopyr works, especially applied in the fall) Perhaps I tasted it in the spring when it was too lush.
That sure sounds like ground ivy. Give it a try during the summer, I bet it tastes different!
 

dmtaylor

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Oh jeez, I've got that stuff in the corner of my yard. I never knew what it was until I just Googled it. I always enjoyed the smell when running the lawnmower over it. So you just use the leaves then? Dried? Cool. Only thing preventing me from using it then might be my dogs wizzing on it. But if I fenced off a small area... :)
 

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That sure sounds like ground ivy. Give it a try during the summer, I bet it tastes different!
I understand it is also called creeping charlie and a bunch of brewing related names alehoof and tunhoof are the two I remember. If I get some I'm going to keep it in a pot. I once made the mistake of planting some peppermint on my front slope and spent the next 10 years trying to wrangle it. LOL :mug:
 
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Miraculix

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Oh jeez, I've got that stuff in the corner of my yard. I never knew what it was until I just Googled it. I always enjoyed the smell when running the lawnmower over it. So you just use the leaves then? Dried? Cool. Only thing preventing me from using it then might be my dogs wizzing on it. But if I fenced off a small area... :)
Don´t dry it. Pick it, leave it on some papertowls for a few hours in the open to allow the insetcs to leave the sinking ship and then rinse it and brew with it! straight into the boil with it! Strain afterwards.
 
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Miraculix

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I understand it is also called creeping charlie and a bunch of brewing related names alehoof and tunhoof are the two I remember. If I get some I'm going to keep it in a pot. I once made the mistake of planting some peppermint on my front slope and spent the next 10 years trying to wrangle it. LOL :mug:
Indeed it is! It is a really nice herb.
 

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I will try the ground ivy too, just made a gruit with wormwood and yarrow and added a little cascade hops all home grown and the result was excrutiatingly bitter. I did not do the tea method but the normal boil, perhaps that is why. Is it possible to Unbitter a batch?
 
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Miraculix

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I will try the ground ivy too, just made a gruit with wormwood and yarrow and added a little cascade hops all home grown and the result was excrutiatingly bitter. I did not do the tea method but the normal boil, perhaps that is why. Is it possible to Unbitter a batch?
You can try waiting it out... Otherwise, no chance.

Wormwood can be hardcore!
 

cmac62

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I will try the ground ivy too, just made a gruit with wormwood and yarrow and added a little cascade hops all home grown and the result was excrutiatingly bitter. I did not do the tea method but the normal boil, perhaps that is why. Is it possible to Unbitter a batch?
I'd likely find an inexpensive malty brew and try mixing some of the wormwood ale. My son and I made a dill pickle gose that was spiced/salted for a 10 gallon batch and ended up with only 7. So it is so salty I can't drink it, but it is much better 50/50 with something else. Good luck.
 

Cool_Hand_Luke

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You can try waiting it out... Otherwise, no chance.

Wormwood can be hardcore!
I brewed this 5 years 11 months ago and it is still as bitter as I remember day 1. I think I've finally resigned myself that I should dump the keg. It's an herb beer rather than Gruit as defined here in this thread.

Forever Bitter - 5.5 gallon batch size
75 minute boil

Ingredients:
5.5 lb Pilsner
4 lb 4 oz Red Wheat Malt
1 lb 4oz Smoked Malt
1 lb 4 oz Wheat Malt Dark
4 oz Acid Malt

0.5 oz Strisslespalt - Boil 60 minutes

Herbs - Boil 10 minutes
5 g Juniper
5 g Wormwood
4 g Marjoram
5 g Rosemary
1 g Bay Leaf

Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale yeast (with starter)

Measured OG = 1.060, Measured FG = 1.010

Not sure how much wormwood @coopbrews used, but if it's anywhere near 5 grams, you can save yourself the nearly 6 years and move on... :mug:

The taste is really good at the start, but then quickly falls into an overwhelming bitterness that stays with you for sometime.

So yeah, I agree. Wormwood is HARDCORE!
 

cmac62

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Luke, you kept a beer in a keg for almost 6 years!! Dang that is commitment. LOL Maybe 1 gram or wormwood is a starting point? how were the other additions flavor and balance minus the extreme bitterness?
 
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Miraculix

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Luke, you kept a beer in a keg for almost 6 years!! Dang that is commitment. LOL Maybe 1 gram or wormwood is a starting point? how were the other additions flavor and balance minus the extreme bitterness?
Maybe you just do the tea and see for yourself. Every harvest and every area yields different potential, last year's might not be half as bitter as this year, so it really is necessary to check every time you open a new pack.
 

frankvw

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Is it possible to Unbitter a batch?
You can try waiting it out... Otherwise, no chance. Wormwood can be hardcore!
Which brings up an interesting point. Hop bitterness is often reduced over time, mainly by the oxidation of alpha and beta acids. Gruit bitterness, on the other hand (e.g. from Wormwood or Quassia) is not based on alpha or beta acids but on other compounds. This suggests they respond differently (if at all) to oxidation.

Does anyone here have any practical data on the evolution of gruit bitterness over time during maturation?
 
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Miraculix

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Which brings up an interesting point. Hop bitterness is often reduced over time, mainly by the oxidation of alpha and beta acids. Gruit bitterness, on the other hand (e.g. from Wormwood or Quassia) is not based on alpha or beta acids but on other compounds. This suggests they respond differently (if at all) to oxidation.

Does anyone here have any practical data on the evolution of gruit bitterness over time during maturation?
Well..... :D

I brewed this 5 years 11 months ago and it is still as bitter as I remember day 1. I think I've finally resigned myself that I should dump the keg. It's an herb beer rather than Gruit as defined here in this thread.

Forever Bitter - 5.5 gallon batch size
75 minute boil

Ingredients:
5.5 lb Pilsner
4 lb 4 oz Red Wheat Malt
1 lb 4oz Smoked Malt
1 lb 4 oz Wheat Malt Dark
4 oz Acid Malt

0.5 oz Strisslespalt - Boil 60 minutes

Herbs - Boil 10 minutes
5 g Juniper
5 g Wormwood
4 g Marjoram
5 g Rosemary
1 g Bay Leaf

Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale yeast (with starter)

Measured OG = 1.060, Measured FG = 1.010

Not sure how much wormwood @coopbrews used, but if it's anywhere near 5 grams, you can save yourself the nearly 6 years and move on... :mug:

The taste is really good at the start, but then quickly falls into an overwhelming bitterness that stays with you for sometime.

So yeah, I agree. Wormwood is HARDCORE!
 

Cool_Hand_Luke

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Luke, you kept a beer in a keg for almost 6 years!! Dang that is commitment. LOL Maybe 1 gram or wormwood is a starting point? how were the other additions flavor and balance minus the extreme bitterness?
Ha! Well I’m a stubborn optimist at heart. I would recommend a tea as stated elsewhere here honestly. I would have never that that small amount would be so potent.

My memory of the exact flavor profile is a bit hazy perhaps due to the utter domination of the bitterness at the end. I still have it though so I’ll see if I can work up the nerve to try it again over the weekend.
 

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I recently visited a friend in Muenster, Germany, and they actually have a couple of breweries that specialize in Gruit beers, namely Gruthaus and Kemker Kultuur.
Apparently, the region has a rather rich history with these beers (I mean, yes, probably most places do). I didn't get a chance to visit either brewery, though, due to a Covid-19-related partial lockdown, and none of the places seemed to carry their Gruit beers (I bought a rather underwhelming "Pumpernickel Porter" by Gruthaus). Has anyone here had their beers?

Gruthaus linked the following interesting article on their website:
The Gruit and the Good
 
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Miraculix

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I recently visited a friend in Muenster, Germany, and they actually have a couple of breweries that specialize in Gruit beers, namely Gruthaus and Kemker Kultuur.
Apparently, the region has a rather rich history with these beers (I mean, yes, probably most places do). I didn't get a chance to visit either brewery, though, due to a Covid-19-related partial lockdown, and none of the places seemed to carry their Gruit beers (I bought a rather underwhelming "Pumpernickel Porter" by Gruthaus). Has anyone here had their beers?

Gruthaus linked the following interesting article on their website:
The Gruit and the Good
Why didn´t I ever hear about this? I live in Bremen, so Muenster is not that far off, thanks for mentioning it, I will check them out!
 
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Miraculix

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I recently visited a friend in Muenster, Germany, and they actually have a couple of breweries that specialize in Gruit beers, namely Gruthaus and Kemker Kultuur.
Apparently, the region has a rather rich history with these beers (I mean, yes, probably most places do). I didn't get a chance to visit either brewery, though, due to a Covid-19-related partial lockdown, and none of the places seemed to carry their Gruit beers (I bought a rather underwhelming "Pumpernickel Porter" by Gruthaus). Has anyone here had their beers?

Gruthaus linked the following interesting article on their website:
The Gruit and the Good
Uff.... quite expensive! I mean, not unreseanable, given the ongoing costs and that these beers tend to age for more than one year, still 100 Euros for 9 bottles is quite some money. However, I like the way they are doing their thing. It is awesome to see that somebody is reviving the old ways and even more awesome to read that one day an old guy dropped buy, so old that he had these old beers himself back in the days, saying that the brewery nailed the old traditional styles. I will certainly buy something from them!
 

monkeymath

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Uff.... quite expensive! I mean, not unreseanable, given the ongoing costs and that these beers tend to age for more than one year, still 100 Euros for 9 bottles is quite some money. However, I like the way they are doing their thing. It is awesome to see that somebody is reviving the old ways and even more awesome to read that one day an old guy dropped buy, so old that he had these old beers himself back in the days, saying that the brewery nailed the old traditional styles. I will certainly buy something from them!
Yeah, the prices of such beers are often a bit hard to swallow. I don't think anyone is getting rich from doing this (quite the contrary), and it seems like they are genuinely passionate about what they do. Of course, this is an absolute niche: sour beers are gaining popularity, even here in Germany, but still hardly anyone buys them by the crate. And gruit beer is even more obscure...

I haven't yet bought anything from them, mainly because I have way too much beer at home already. Once I have "worked my way through that", I might give it a shot - although, honestly, my expectations aren't all that high and you could get some wonderful 3fonteinen beers at the same price...
 

Cool_Hand_Luke

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Luke, you kept a beer in a keg for almost 6 years!! Dang that is commitment. LOL Maybe 1 gram or wormwood is a starting point? how were the other additions flavor and balance minus the extreme bitterness?
OK so finally worked up the courage to take a sample from the keg... after I finished cleaning the floor and a few other surfaces due to a complete lack of judgement and thinking relieving a fully carbonated nearly full keg at room temperature through the PRV would be a good idea. Once my walls and pride were back in place, I wised up and pulled a gravity sample into a large jar using a generous length of tubing and a ball lock fitting.

The gravity had dropped down to 1.002 indicating that something other than the original WY1214 might have found a meal. WY1214 is a good attenuator but not that good from past experience. The beer was not tart or sour at all, I suspect some strain of Brett.

With regards to taste, I got the following. First 3-4 seconds were pleasant, juniper came through, some characteristic esters of clove, etc. from the 1214, and then a general "herbal" that I can't describe that I would guess is contributed to the marjoram, rosemary, and bay leaf. All in all quite pleasant, however on the 5-6 seconds onwards all of that is immediately wiped from your memory as the bitterness absolutely dominates. I kept trying to pinpoint the other flavors, but I just simply couldn't think fast enough before I was again succumbing to the wormwood obliteration.

Anyway, I probably won't age it another 6 years.
 

cmac62

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Have you tried mixing it with something else. Usually when doing this I use Coors Banquet because it is a light simple pallet to blend, nothing in your face.
 

cmac62

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I know a lot of gruit beers are hop free, but this is not a requirement. On my next one, I think I'll use 1 oz of some mid level AA hop at 60 minutes for its bittering and antimicrobial properties, then use some of the other herbs for additional flavor. I like the idea of juniper, rosemary and bay. I have some marsh rosemary/Labrador to play with. I also bought some frankincense and myrrh to brew a xmas beer, but didn't get around to it for this year. Maybe brew that one next summer and put it in bottles for xmas. I know there are a couple of breweries using these for bittering, but not yet sure how much to use. I guess more tea is in my future. :mug:
 

cmac62

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I recently visited a friend in Muenster, Germany, and they actually have a couple of breweries that specialize in Gruit beers, namely Gruthaus and Kemker Kultuur.
Apparently, the region has a rather rich history with these beers (I mean, yes, probably most places do). I didn't get a chance to visit either brewery, though, due to a Covid-19-related partial lockdown, and none of the places seemed to carry their Gruit beers (I bought a rather underwhelming "Pumpernickel Porter" by Gruthaus). Has anyone here had their beers?

Gruthaus linked the following interesting article on their website:
The Gruit and the Good
Thanks for the link Monkey. That was a great read. Also buoys my note above that hops are no out of place in a gruit beer. Fascinating that they used ancient poo to find the ingredients of a drink from so long ago. :mug:
 
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