BeerDorks.com: Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

 
February 26, 2008

Home Brewin’:

Two Gruits Fat And Thin

Jug shares the results of his great herbal beer experiment.
by Jug Dunningan

Jug Dunningan is just here for the beer.
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The results of my great gruit experiment are now in. Before I give you the results, let me refresh you a bit. I brewed two separate half-batches (2.5 gallons) of gruit. Both had an original gravity of 1.044 and no specialty grains. Both sat in the primary fermentor for four days then were racked to glass carboys for 10 more days. Both finished at 1.012. Revisit my last article to read up on the specifics.

Batch #1 was supposed to be a bit of a control. I found some vague recipes for gruit and this was close to a basic recipe. Batch #2 I went wild on. I used what I thought I knew about the flavors of these herbs and gave it a go. The results were interesting to say the least. Let’s rate ’em.

The first batch is a straw colored brew. No different in color than any other beer brewed with the same malts. It has a white fizzy head that sizzles and diminishes rather quickly. The head looks, acts and even sounds like the fizz on a cola more than like a beer. The bouquet is slightly citrusy, like the scent of an orange peel, with some lavender-like fragrance. Immediately upon sipping this brew, you will know it is not a beer. The first flavor you perceive is a sweet herbal flavor. The sweetness isn’t strong or cloying like malt, but light and slightly medicinal, in a good way. That herbal flavor is almost tea-like. It finishes with a mellow citrusy, acidic bite that makes it very refreshing.

I am pleasantly surprised how well this gruit turned out. It is a light, thirst-quenching brew one could enjoy on a hot summer day while sitting on the deck. If anyone has ever been curious about making a gruit, I would recommend starting with this recipe, and I will certainly brew this one again. The Wyeast 1318 London yeast strain finishes light, fruity and slightly sweet and compliments this concoction very well, although I am curious how a California Lager or a German Wheat strain yeast would do with these ingredients. If you experiment with either one, drop me a line and let me know how it turned out.


On to Batch #2. It pours exactly like Batch #1 except with a thicker, more sustained head. The head is actually pretty impressive considering there aren’t any hops in there to help stabilize it. The aroma is pungent and earthy with some medicinal tones at the far ends of the sniff. At the very front of the sip there is some of the tea-like sweetness found in Batch #1, but then the wormwood tears into your taste buds to such an extent that the rest of the herbs and malt literally drown in it. I hesitate to call it “bitter,” since hopheads might think they would enjoy it, because the bitterness isn’t hop-like at all. It’s so punishingly acrid that only a masochist would find any joy in drinking this brew. Frankly, it tastes like ass.

Obviously, a complete disappointment. I even mixed different proportions of the two batches together, but the Wormwood is just too dominant no matter how little I add. If anything is learned here, it is that wormwood should be used in extremely small quantities in gruit—if at all.

I should also mention that I suffered no “effects” from the wormwood, either with the gruit or the teas I made of the herbs. Wormwood’s supposed hallucinogenic properties are nothing more than mainstream media sensationalism and urban legends. Learn more here.

This was a fun experiment and I was lucky enough to discover a great brew to try. I will continue to play with my herbs and read the recipes you have sent me. I will post them as I try them out to keep you informed. Prosit!



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