By Rob Symes
If retro becomes cool again, the gruit is due for a renaissance. This little-known beer style
is one of the rarest in Canada, but also one of the most unique. That’s because the one
ingredient that most of us love about craft beer – hops – is missing. Hops are used for
flavouring and bittering, but in a gruit, this role can belong to any number of herbs like
sweet gale, yarrow and heather. Bitterness is more restrained as a result, but it does result
in herbal flavours that are out of the norm, and a gruit can make a really nice change of
What most people don’t know is that gruit was pretty much the go-to option in the 15th
and 16th century. If you didn’t want a mug of sour wine your choice was likely an
ancestor of what we would recognize as modern beer. That’s because gruits employed all
manner of vegetation to flavour and preserve, and it took a while for the mighty hop to
emerge as the champion.
Where to find it: Gruits are almost as rare as a four-leaf clover (not known to be used as
a great ingredient, yet). Luckily, Ontario’s Beau’s produces a number of one-off and
seasonals, including the humourously named Bog Water, with herbal notes from bog
myrtle, and spiciness from Belgian yeast.