What is Gruit? (3 Gruit Ale Recipes)

Ingredients For A Gruit Ale RecipeIn the modern world of craft beer and homebrew, hops take center stage. Many brewers and drinkers enjoy pushing the limits on just how hoppy a beer can be. But it wasn’t always this way. Before their use became widespread, hops were actually frowned upon in favor of the wide range of herbs and spices that were used to flavor beer. These herbed beers of antiquity are known as gruit.

Gruit is a term that refers to both the mixture of herbs and spices used to flavor beer or mead as well as the alcoholic beverage flavored with such herbs and spices. There’s no one particular mixture of herbs and spices used in gruit – every brewer had their own proprietary combination.

Though the plants used in gruit can vary quite a bit, below are some of the usual suspects you will find in a gruit ale recipe:

  • myrica gale
  • wild rosemary
  • yarrow
  • juniper
  • spruce tips
  • birch tips
  • bay
  • nettles
  • marjoram
  • chamomile
  • rose hips
  • lavender
  • elder flowers
  • dried licorice root
  • fennel seed

Give one of these gruit ale recipes a shot to get a taste of some medieval!
Mumm (adapted from the Homebrewer’s Garden)
(five-gallon batch, partial mash recipe)

Specs 
OG: 1.055 – 1.062
FG: 1.018 – 1.014
ABV: 5.7 – 6.7

Ingredients
3.3 lbs. light LME
3.3 lbs. wheat LME
.75 lb. caramel 60L malt
.33 lb. wheat malt
1.5 lbs. steel cut oats
.25 lb. rye malt
.25 lb. black patent malt
.25 lb. roasted barley
1 oz. Northern Brewer hops at :60 (9 AAUs)
Any six herbs/spices from the list above (use 1/4 to 1/2 oz. of each)
Wyeast 3068: Weihenstephaner Weizen Yeast

Directions
Mash the crushed grains in 1.5 gallons of water at 148˚F for 60 minutes. Sparge with .5 gallons water at 170˚F. Add the LME and bring to a boil. Add hops and herbs/spices and boil for 60 minutes. Chill wort and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter. Add enough cool, clean, chlorine-free water to make 5 gallons. Pitch yeast when wort is 70˚F or below. Ferment at 65-70˚F for 1-2 weeks. Bottle with 2/3 cup priming sugar and condition for 3-6 weeks or longer before drinking.
Gruit Ale Recipe (from Sacred & Herbal Healing Beers)
(one-gallon batch, all-grain recipe)

Ingredients
1.75 lbs. pale malt
1.5 lbs. Carapils malt
1.5 grams myrica gale
1.5 grams marsh rosemary
1.5 grams yarrow
ale yeast

Directions
Heat one gallon of water to 170˚F and mash in the grains. Let mash rest for three hours, stirring occasionally. Sparge with 170˚F water to collect just over 1 gallon of wort. Add herbs and boil for 90 minutes. Chill wort to 70˚F or below, transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter, and pitch yeast. Prime with 24 grams of corn sugar and bottle. Condition for four months before drinking.
Do It To It Gruit (from Radical Brewing)
(five-gallon batch, partial mash recipe)

Specs
OG: 1.054
ABV: 4.5 – 5.2
IBUs: 10
SRM: ~25

Ingredients
5 lb. amber DME
.5 lb. caramel 60L malt
1 lb. smoked malt
.25 lb. chocolate malt
2 oz. juniper berries
5 g. bog myrtle (myrica gale)
5 g. caraway
5 g. mugwort
5 g. winemaker’s tannin or grape seeds
3 g. rosemary
3 g. ground cloves
3 g. cardamom
3 bay leaves
Belgian or German ale yeast

Directions
Mash crushed grains for one hour at 154˚F. Sparge and collect about 6.5 gallons of wort. Boil for 90 minutes. In the last five minutes, add all of the herbs/spices. Cool wort, transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter, and pitch yeast. Condition for at least 6-8 weeks before drinking.

Have you ever brewed a gruit ale recipe? What herbs and spices did you use? Here some more information on brewing beer with herbs.
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David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

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