Gruit ales are an ancient brew, that were and are made without hops, instead they would use herbs. Gruits were brewed all over the European continent between 700 and 1700 AD. The typical Gruit herbs, the three most used were, Yarrow (flowers and stems), Marsh or Wild Rosemary, and Myrica or Sweet Gale. The main reason that the Gruit Herbs were replaced by hops in brewing was that hops were a better antiseptic, meaning that they retarded the growth of bacteria and preserved the ale longer then the herbs did. Remember that there was no refrigeration in those days and a batch of brew would last only so long with just alcohol and the herbs or even the hops to prevent spoilage. The other very significant difference between hops and Gruit herbs is that the hops have a sedative value to them (they make you sleepy) and the Gruit herbs have psychoactive properties that wake you up. That is why we always heard the tales that during the renaissance they would have great bawdy parties for days on end (wait, that’s what the Falcons do, never mind). This Gruit won the Gold medal at the 2011 Doug King Memorial Competition as well as coming in 1st runners up to Best of Show in that Comp. I think this was the best Gruit that I have ever brewed and I have brewed 21 of them.
Steve Cook, Cookie Kaplan, Nicolai Abramson