For a long time Grutbier was THE beer in Europe. Because before hops were even known and available, beer was brewed with different herb mixtures - the Gruit mixture.
Gruit-mixtures consisted mainly of regionally available herbs. In Scandinavia, for example, a large component was juniper, in the Netherlands and Belgium laurel and laurel berries, in the Baltic States marsh rosemary, caraway or wormwood, and in other regions wild rosemary, caraway or wormwood were used. There are also countless other mixtures and compositions.
Brewing beer without gruit? Unthinkable!
Beer brewing with herbs and spices has probably been common since the first brewing experiments. Since the Middle Ages - here the source basis is clearer and more varied - there have been various traditions about grut beers, their distribution and composition. But the sources show something else: Hopped and gruit beers led a coexistence.
Since the 13th century, hops were established in regions where gruit beers were common. Hops preserved beer in a natural way, had disinfectant properties and made the beer last longer. For example, hopped beer became an important export commodity from cities like Hamburg and Lübeck.
Alive and on fire!
But even after gruit beer was replaced nationwide by the cheaper hopped beer - this was the case in the 16th-17th century at the latest - this beer style did not die out completely. Due to its deep roots in brewing tradition and beer history, especially in rural and remote regions, it is still alive today. And: It has become a part of the Craft Beer culture. Not least in the USA, but also in Europe this style is brewed by many breweries.
Here, gruit blends are added to various beer styles, for example to seasonal or Farmhouse Ales, to Wild Ales or Sour Ales. But also dark beer styles are suitable for the addition of herbs.
Gruit beer is particularly vividly represented in the Netherlands and Belgium - there breweries such as Nevel, De Kromme Haring or Antidoot stand for a lively development of the beer style. Another center of European grut culture is in Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia. There, Kemker Kultuur and Gruthaus brew gruit beers according to historical models as well as a vivid homebrew community which experiments a lot on gruit beers as well..