Gruit Beer: Beer Without Hops?

by Karl | Last Updated: April 10, 2020

Are you looking at trying out something new, like a beer to spend your evenings in? We aren’t talking about run of the mill beer here, but something you would love to try, time and again. 

Beer, in its very basic terms, constitutes of four primary ingredients, these are – ” Water, Yeast, Barley, and hops”.

Now, hops are nothing but flowers of the plant Humulus Lupulus. The very reason they are used for brewing beer is due to their antibacterial effect and their ability to balance the sweetness in the blend caused by the malt. The hops, owing to their inherent bitterness and many aromas and flavours help maintain the desired balance between the sweetness of the beer and the bitterness.

We have all heard about the fact that “Gin” can constitute any number of added flavours and aromas, but for it to be labelled as “GIN,” the use of Juniper is a must. 

Similarly, the inclusion of hops is essential for it to be called beer, in various countries, including the United States of America. 

Gruit Beer Without Hops_

Before all these standardizations were introduced, an aggregation of bittering agents including herbs and spices, were used. This aggregation was called Gruit and was used to preserve and provide the desired flavour to the beer. The very reason for these additional elements and agents is to avoid the beer getting unseasoned and unbalanced. 

A very generic gruit consists of yarrow, rosemary, wormwood, lavender, fennel seeds, and even lemon skin in some cases. Similar to hops, Gruit also possesses antiseptic properties and antibacterial properties, thus reducing the chances of bacterial infections in the brew.

Why Did Brewers Stop Using Gruit?

There is enough evidence to support the fact that Gruit beer was indeed the most popular beer before the 1500s. Interestingly, the origins of Gruit can be traced back to the Neolothigical age. 

However, owing to some of the properties of Gruit, many civilizations and countries of Germany and the Roman Empire adopted something called “Reinheitsgebot.” The word Reinheitsgebot translates into purity order and hence led to the downfall of the popularity of the Gruit based beer.

These regulations meant that one could only use water, hops, and barley as primary constituents of the beer. This change in policy started and triggered the decline of Gruit beers until very recently that it gained some popularity again. 

These regulations limited the brewing ingredients one could use to make beer and ruled that beer may only contain water, barley, and hops (yeasts were made part of this process much later, after the discovery of the process of Fermentation.

Hops vs. Gruit Beer

There is enough substance to prove that Gruit based ales are much stronger and provide a livelier experience in comparison to beers consisting of hops. Gruit based brews have shown to have aphrodisiacal properties, thus causing an increase in sexual desire. 

Gruit has also evidently exhibited narcotic effects. 

While, on the one hand, this led to an increase in its recreational use, the very same factors led to its downfall. 

On the other hand, hops are known to generate a spirit on the walls of the imbiber, Hops Tea is another popular beverage that makes use of hops and is known to catalyze the dreaming process and also causes tiredness, drowsiness, and fatigue for a beer drinker. 

Contrary to the Gruit beer hops beer is an anti-aphrodisiacal element and is known to reduce sexual desire.

As mentioned above, one of the herbs used in Gruit beer is the Yarrow Herb. The use of this herb dates back to 60 thousand years. This herb has been used to staunch wounds due to it”s unique chemical composition. 

Some of the alkaloids in Gruit give rise to a reaction with the brain receptors releasing THC. This reaction is similar to the one observed in Marijuana and is known to exhibit the same effects. 

Why is Gruit Making a Comeback?

Reports suggest that Gruit was used for beers much earlier than the introduction of hops for the same. Also, there is substantial evidence to prove that gruit beer provides a much better and livelier experience than the currently being used Hop.

The 2000s saw a very drastic increase in the popularity of the craft beers. Statistics show that in 2008, America was home to almost 1500 brewers. This number then exploded to a mind-boggling 7450+ craft brewers in the United States. In 2008, there were just over 1,500 breweries in the United States. As of late 2018, there were 7,450+ breweries in America.

Many Craft brewers have started to appreciate the flavour and benefits associated with Gruit and has hence begun adopting them. SO much so that an International Gruit Day is celebrated to spread popularity back into the community.

Some must try Popular Gruit Beers

1. Williams Brothers Brewing Co.

The Williams Brother Brewery is one of the most renowned craft breweries. This craft brewery has recently emphasized on the revival and redemption of the gruit beer. 

So much so that they have put out a new line up of 5 different fruit-based beers.

2. New Belgium

New Belgium recently broke out on Social Media as they put out the “New Belgium Gruit.” 

There were a lot of viral videos, featuring people, enjoying their gruit beer to the fullest.

Conclusion

We can find many instances in history where the use of Gruit beers can be observed. This is also since the herbs used for Gruit can easily be foraged and used. The Gruit beer has proven to be stronger than hop beer, and in a recent survey, Gruit beer was also voted as providing a better overall drinking experience. 

With the world, obsessed with hops beer off late, one should give the gruit beer a try. It might just be your next favorite beer – you never know. 

Lead marketer, brewer, dad, and husband. Pretty much an all-round awesome guy.