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.

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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!

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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.

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Gruit & Kuit

Verloren bieren 21 Pivo-i-eda-v-Olde-HansaTo be perfectly honest, I started this quest for the lost beers of Holland mainly looking for recipes of the 18th and 19th century. Why? Two reasons: they are easier to find and to interpret, and nobody had really written about them before. So far, every new beer recipe feels like a lost treasure found after deep digging. Still, the 19th century is not exactly the heyday of Dutch beer. The Middle Ages were. For a few centuries Holland was the leading beer exporting country that taught even the British and Belgians how to brew beer with hops. But we’ll get to that.

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