Well this is exciting isn’t it? A beer without hops, instead using a variety of herbs and spices to bring flavour instead…so far as I understand the herbal mixture that goes into Gruut can be anything along the lines of: sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow, ground ivy, horehound, and heather.
Other herbs used over the years have included: black henbane (which I thought was a constituent of witches flying potions – as it is powerfully and sometimes fatally hallucinogenic?!), juniper berries, ginger, caraway seed, aniseed, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sometimes even hops!
Like all good producers of Gruut, the Stadstbrouwerij folks are letting on what’s in theirs. Suffice to say that I’m sure there isn’t any Henbane…at least I’m fairly sure there wasn’t as I definitely wasn’t flying by the end of it…
Out of the bottle it was best bitter brown and bore aloft a fine, off-tan head.
The aroma was yeastily fruity, a little phenolic, with some banana, and a nice background note of sweetness – also in the mix was a little spicy note, too.
Once I’d ploughed through the ample effervesence, the taste was sweetly malty – or maybe even herbally sweet? With bubblegum, phenol and some considerable alcohol.
The aftertaste was of lingering sweetness, a nice alcoholic warmth with a touch of peppery spiciness on the end. There was pretty much zero in the way of bitterness, but that’s to be expected…I suspect a herbal bitterness is very different animal to a smooth hop bitterness, so I can see why the style ended up being sweetish.
On the whole, I liked Gruut, but would have liked some bitterness, if only to trade off against the alcoholic strength. This is without doubt Belgian in origin as the yeast is so much a part of the overall product.