Gruit, recovering traditions

For many people, the word GRUIT is unusual, and they don´t neither know what it means. Today we have the Wikipedia, which says that gruit is an old mixture of plants used in beers to give flavour and aroma before the extensive use of hops. Gruit, moreover, refers to the beverage made with these plant mixtures.

We can begin, from this definition, to have an idea of what this brew is and what it is used for. Also we can guess the importance, when we speak about this beverage, which has spent centuries accompanying us:  beer. In time, we situate Gruit during the Middle Ages in central Europe; where dozens of plants were used to make beer, providing a wide range of flavour and aromas for this beverage.

We don´t know what the gruit flavours of these times were, because a lot of things have changed. The passing of the centuries has made our taste, smell and sight adapt to numerous changes and our organoleptic perception isn´t the same as our ancestors have. On the other hand, the gruit method elaboration was very rudimentary in that era: they used precarious utensils, there was less hygiene, and barley was malted in various ways, smoked and roasted to excess. But thanks to homebrewers, who know the tradition and the values of this product, we can, combine artisanal elaboration with more innovative production techniques, taste the kind of beers made with gruit today.

Therefore, the ideas of these brewmasters are based in beer and they are not linked to the conventional elaboration form, but more an experimentation and discovery form. The Gruit beers are the best example of this innovative and pioneering spirit. Middle Europe, the cradle of beers for many ages, is a place of inspiration for many other countries. Inspiration that is the recovery of traditions and forgotten values, but nonetheless it is part of our history and culture. The emergence of movements such as the celebration of first Gruit Day, on the first of February this year in USA, is a good example of this growing trend.

My own reflection is that sometimes we forget our past, it´s ultimately our history and our legacy for future generations. Other countries without this long tradition or beer history have to remind us the importance of these manners and traditional elaboration forms.

I would like to think that homebrewers will see the importance of recovering this elaboration forms and that middle European countries, that were the gruit cradle, will return to recover these natural and genuine recipes to remember our origins.


Jordi Torras