Gruit: nothing mysterious about it

Münster town hall, with the Gruetgasse (Gruit Alley) to the right. Inset: bog myrtle. Source: WikipediaGruit was a Medieval beer ingredient in the Low Countries and westernmost Germany, as we saw in the previous article. Local governments had a monopoly on it and made good money selling it. But too often, people like to pretend there is something mysterious about what exactly gruit was composed of, and what purpose it served. However, gruit isn’t such a big mystery: more information has been preserved than you may have thought. So here’s a quick survey of gruit, and now you never need to say anymore that we don’t know anything about it.

(more…)


Fact check: where did gruit occur?

British Library - Petrus de Crescentiis - Rustican des ruraulx p. 157Recently someone added me to a gruit chat group on Facebook, called ‘The Gruit Guild’. That meant many pictures of brews and of people picking herbs out on the heath. After all, gruit was a herb mix added to beer in the Middle Ages, before people started using hops. But recently, someone asked a historical question, so I was happy to interfere. The question was: where did gruit actually occur? A fact check!

(more…)


Lost Belgian beers: Uitzet

Dubbel uitzet - Source: amsterdambookauctions.comSo far on this blog I’ve been concentrating on Lost Beers from the Netherlands. After all, that’s where all the old-fashioned top-fermenting beers got forgotten, after being outcompeted by lager. Compare that to Belgium, the open air museum of beer, which always stayed faithful to its lambic, Flemish old brown, white beer and saison. Although… Belgium too has quite a lot of lost beer types.[1]

(more…)


Dutch beer renaissance? Not yet, but…

Utrechtse Bierbrouwers Festival - Photo PINTKuit, princesse, Loender, more kuit… lately slowly but surely Dutch beers surface that are based on a rediscovered beer type from the past. It’s not yet a complete renaissance, but all in all there’s more and more Dutch beer history on the market, and then I’m not even mentioning the home brews. Time for a recap. (more…)


The book is here

There it is right in front of me, and how great it looks: the book. Verloren Bieren van Nederland, which is Dutch for ‘Lost Beers of the Netherlands’, released by Dutch publisher Unieboek/Spectrum. A blue hard cover, smooth paper inside, with full-colour illustrations. The story of Dutch beer from beginning to end, interwoven with recipes. I think it’s the most beautiful beer book to be published this year, but of course I’d find that. (more…)


Poesiat & Kater

On this blog I do not often write about me visiting breweries. Hardly ever, actually. Not that I hadn’t wished to take a look around in a Medieval gruit house, in an eighteenth-century mol brewery or at De Kraan en de Drie Snoeken in my home town, but that time machine still has to be invented. Luckily, the next best thing has just opened in Amsterdam. Not just another hip brewery just outside the city centre, it’s more than that, or at least if you are slightly nuts about historic beer. (more…)


Ersatz beer from Breda

The search for lost beers continues, while debunking the odd beer myth along the way. And sometimes brewers used quite remarkable ingredients. In Breda, they used skimmed milk.

(more…)


Fact check: The Belgian Beer Book

Fact check: The Belgian Beer BookThe Belgian Beer Book is an impressive edition. With 704 full-colour pages, it weighs 2 kilos. The book that Belgian beer culture and tradition deserves, you’d say. Last September, when it came out, I happened to meet one of the authors, Luc de Raedemaeker. He had the book with him, he was barely able to carry it. I opened the book and immediately I broke out in a cold sweat. It contains the worst collection of glaring bollocks on beer history I’ve ever seen put together.

(more…)


What is Holland’s oldest beer?

Bierreclamemuseum Breda - Beer coastersSometimes a question pops up in your head which makes you think: why has no-one asked it before? Like: what is the oldest beer in The Netherlands still in existence? All this time I have been talking about ‘lost beers’, but what beers actually didn’t go lost? Beers where you can draw a straight line between their origin and today? The answer comes from 1872, and it is surprising, but also nicely appropriate for this time of the year…

(more…)


Tigre Bock

Tigre Bock - Kronenbourg - delcampeIt’s autumn, and in Holland this means: bock beer. All the big Dutch breweries produce their own dark brown variety, some of which are actually quite tasty. So you get a dark Heineken, a dark Amstel, a dark Grolsch. Where this tradition comes from, will be the scope of another article (already available in Dutch). Right now I’d like to discuss some historical bock beer news. French bock beer is back, courtesy of Kronenbourg. You know, that rather boring French lager.

(more…)