group gruit

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Postby yeastmeister » Wed Dec 12, 2007 4:06 pm

Ok, time for a little information release....now that I have others looking at this topic.

I've got easy access to the following:

Angelica
Wormwood
Juniper (berries)
Calamus Root
Yarrow Flower
Mugwort
Lemon Balm
Hyssop
White Oak Bark
Licorice
Corriander

Everything else seems to be out.....

I don't have any books on the subject myself, just what I can find on the internet. For those of you with books with recipes, or access to the internet, or just strong thoughts on the subject, how about we start the recipe formulation?

What can we make from the above list? Post something, and then lets see what others think, see if we can modify it, and come up with a plan.

I've shown the possible ingredients, lets see what y'all can come up with....

Remember, this is going to be a club group brew, so everyones input is welcome....
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Postby Imakewort » Wed Dec 12, 2007 4:47 pm

well we could do a club brew, lets work on a recipe and set a date might make for a interesting conversational beer. now has anybody actually tried one?
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Postby GuitarLord5000 » Thu Dec 13, 2007 2:32 pm

Here's my ideas. Let me know what you think.
Yarrow (field hop) for 60 minutes in boil.
White Oak, Hyssop, Corainder and/or Angelica for 30 minutes in boil.
Lemon Balm and Mugwort OR Wormwood (these two are alike enough to be considered the same thing) for the last 10 minutes in boil.
Calamus Root, Yarrow and/or Mugwort/Wormwood for dry herbing.

I didnt include Licorice or Juniper because those two were singled out as undesirable in previous posts.

I put Wormwood/Mugwort in the last 10 minutes of the boil so that the huge bittering potential wouldnt overwhelm the beer. Angelica and Hyssop could be added again in the last 10 minutes also.

What about base grains? I'm thinking something with a high malt flavor, which would be more suited to a a complex herb bill.

What suggestions do you guys have?


Side Note:
I realize that I am not a member of the Deadyeast Society, so if you fellas dont want me posting, please let me know and I will cease and desist.

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Postby yeastmeister » Thu Dec 13, 2007 4:58 pm

All are welcome in the forum! The whole point in the club is to share brewing knowledge. I'd encourage you to join, but its not necessary to ask questions/trade advice.

Dry herbing is interesting, I hadn't thought about that.

I'm thinking something high in gravity and sweetness. I'm a little concerned about having something thats way too bitter.

I'm an all grain guy, so I think in those terms....

10 pounds pale malt
2 pounds crystal malt
3 pounds pilsner malt
4 pounds Munich malt

Mashed at 156.

Of course, I'm also thinking that for group stuff, since there are usually new people, maybe extract would be better....

Basically, that could convert to something like...

12 lbs pale LME
3 lbs amber lme
1 lb crystal (steeped)

That should result in a fairly sweet, high alcohol brew that should help keep the bacteria under control during aging....

Keep up the suggestions....this is a starting point, nothing more....
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Postby GuitarLord5000 » Thu Dec 13, 2007 8:37 pm

I like that all-grain recipe. I would add 4 oz. or so of Cara-pils for head retention. There's liable to be plenty of head-killing oils leaching out of the gruit herbs.
Using Beersmith, I'm showing an ABV of about 10%. That sounds pretty good! Im not sure how much aging would be required for such a high percentage beer, though.

You can estimate the IBU's of the various herbs using the same technique for estimating homegrown hops IBU's.
(from this article http://pw2.netcom.com/~dluzanp/backyard.htm)
"I make up two hop tea samples - one from our unknown alpha fresh hops, and the second from commercial whole leaf hops of the same cultivar with known alpha. Stir one-quarter ounce hops plus one teaspoon sugar into two cups of boiling water (the sugar is needed because the hop resins are nearly insoluble in plain water.) Next, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes. Now add enough boiled water to each sample to bring their volumes back to two cups. Let the teas settle and cool to room temperature. Next, decant and filter the teas through a coffee filter to remove sediment.

Now comes the tasting part. It's best to do the tasting in the morning when your taste buds are freshest. Measure a quarter cup of each of the hops teas. Now taste a few drops of the unknown alpha tea and rinse off your tongue. The tea will taste bitter, of course. Next, add one-quarter teaspoon sugar and taste. It will taste a little less bitter. Continue titrating the tea with the sugar in quarter-teaspoon increments (and doing a tongue rinsing between each tasting) while tasting for the point when the predominantly bitter taste finally gives way to a sweet taste (with bitter overtones). This is when the bitter loses its bite. Record the amount of sugar it took to reach this turning point. Now repeat the titration with the known alpha tea. The ratio of the titrated sugar for the unknown hops to the sugar required for the known hops is our estimate of the ratio of the alphas of the respective hops."
You would probably have to do one for 60, 30, and 10 minutes, or whatever boil times you choose, to be most accurate.

How many IBU's would a recipe like this require?

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Postby aleguy » Fri Dec 14, 2007 10:04 am

I never meant to nix licorice root completely. I just know that it will contribute a lot of unfermentable sweetness to the mash. I would however avoid wormwood as it is reported to taste awful. If we're going to use an artemisia I favor the more gentle mugwort.
Also, my information generally indicates that gruit herbs were essentially used half in the boil and half as a "dry hop" addition. This important because many of them contain psychoactive chemicals in essential oil form that are not water soluble and they rely on the alcohol content in the beer to bring them into solution. Traditional gruit herbs are said to have pronounced effects only when in beer. Gruit beer is supposed to be inspiring and aphrodisiac as opposed to hopped beer which makes you sleepy and less inclined to engage in amorous activity.
However interesting, this is not particularly helpful to the task at hand. Recipe formulation is fun, but since none of us apparently has any experience brewing with these herbs I think it best either to try and follow a traditional recipe as closely as possible, or stick to a handful of mild herbs.
I vote for definitely including Yarrow, though I thought the leaves were used rather than the flowers. Does anyone know where there might be a wild patch growing?
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Postby aleguy » Fri Dec 14, 2007 10:39 am

After a review of my book source, I find our limited choices don't really fit with any of the gruit recipes. Can we get Labrador tea to replace the wild rosemary?
I have access to abundant (?) fresh lemon balm at the moment, but it will die back soon. We could just make a traditional ginger ale. it would be very hot and spicy, but would also prevent nausea in anyone who drank it.
I'm also sensing a reluctance to the use of wildcrafted plants for this endeavor. It has been my experience that commercially available herbs are often so badly handled as to render them useless. Often they are adulterated with other plants which can sometimes be dangerous. You pays your money and you takes your chances. caveat emptor.
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Postby yeastmeister » Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:30 am

Actually, for some reason, I'm against Labrador tea because I don't believe I have ever seen any old recipies using it. I could be wrong, please correct me if I am. I am thinking that somehow we are being enticed to use something else just because its available and close.

While I don't disagree that you can't find any recipes that fit the ingredients, I've read in numerous places that not all plants were available everywhere, and that there were numerous gruit recipes, most were considered secret by the preparers...

I'm thinking I'd still like to use things that are documented as being used in gruit in the past, as opposed to what modern marketing forces are saying.

I've got the herbs I have, because those are the only ones I could find at a reasonable cost. I realize that if I put no limit on cost, just about anything is available, but I'm trying to find a point where we are using authentic ingredients that could have been used somewhere, while still keeping it costing close to the cost of what hops would cost.

I originally thought of this because of the looming "hop shortage", but if its going to cost lots more to use herbs than it is to buy hops even at the current inflated prices, that changes the concept a little.

I've actually got some wormwood, and can tell you that its not as awful as people have made it out to be. I've used my herb supplier for a while now, and never had any problems with consistency or freshness. I have no problems with getting together and chewing on some prior to final recipe formulation....I'll bring some to the next club meeting.
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Postby aleguy » Fri Dec 14, 2007 12:10 pm

Yes I did suggest Labrador tea because it is closely related to wild rosemary and has essentially the same constituent chemistry. According to my book, it was used in brewing in the new world as a substitute, because wild rosemary doesn't grow naturally on this side of the Atlantic. The only source I have found for it is very pricey. I didn't mean to demean your supplier by the way, there are some good ones out there.
I didn't suggest using the root bark of wax myrtle as a substitute for sweet gale because it hasn't been used historically for brewing as far as I know. I also know that ancient brewers often simply used whatever gruit ingredients were available.
I also agree that keeping the cost reasonable is important. For my IPAs I generally use six ounces of hops for a five-gallon batch which would put the cost of hops at about $12 before the price increases I've been hearing about but not yet seen since I haven't bought any hops in awhile.
I'm also fine with whatever recipe we come up with. I was just trying to be helpful. Apparently, the old recipes for gruit were all based on those three herbs and that the secret part came in with whatever else was added, such as Mandrake (available but not recommended as there are no old-growth plants left and it is nearly extinct in the wild,) henbane (also not recommended,) sage, hops, wormwood, &c.
I do have some Mandrake that I am willing to donate if you want it, but I think it would be rather foolish to include it even if it is traditional.
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Postby GuitarLord5000 » Fri Dec 14, 2007 12:23 pm

Egad Man!

After much searching, I've found Sweet Gale at a half-decent price!
$2.10/25gm
$4.20/100gm
$21.00 lb
from this place:
http://www.algonquintea.com/02_herbs.html

Hands down the best price I've seen for it anywhere. What do you guys think?

As for Yarrow, from what I've read, the flowering tops are more desirable than the leafy material for gruit making.

I've seen a few resources that suggest that Marsh Rosemary was used
in lieu of sweet gale whenever sweet gale was not readily available.
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Postby yeastmeister » Fri Dec 14, 2007 12:46 pm

Interesting....I actually ran across them in my searches before, but somehow they make me nervous. Check the page that you link to, and its the 2005 inventory and price. They ask that you order then they will contact you to tell you if they are in stock, and presumably how much.

I agree that if they have them in stock, and they honor that price, and don't jack up the shipping, its the best price I have seen.

I'll email them and see what they say....
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Postby yeastmeister » Fri Dec 14, 2007 12:49 pm

Actually, what I have for Yarrow are the flowering tops....
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Postby GuitarLord5000 » Fri Dec 14, 2007 1:10 pm

Aleguy,
I agree with using the Labrador Tea substitute. Most of the references I've seen describe Labrador Tea as a weaker version of Wild Rosemary, so I'd imagine you'd just have to substitute a larger portion of Labrador Tea in its place. I just havent managed to find a decent price for Labrador Tea either.
So far, I havent seen any recipes citing Wax Myrtle or Bayberry root bark in gruit-making either. I might have to give it a try though. I need to locate a small amount of Sweet Gale as a reference though. I've never tasted it.

I hope you guys come up with something agreeable!

Oh, and Aleguy, I really have to take a look at that book of yours someday! It sounds very informative!

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Postby aleguy » Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:52 pm

Looks like you already have the Myrica gale nailed down so there wouldn't be any point in using wax myrtle root bark. The book has a recipe for bayberry beer too. I'll bring it to the next meeting unless I loan it to the Yeastmeister first (If he wants to see it.)
I personally don't care much what kind of recipe we come up with at this point. I just think that we shouldn't call it gruit unless it contains the base gruit herbs (or reasonable substitutes.)
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Postby aleguy » Sat Dec 15, 2007 11:19 am

By the way, I like the yeastmeister's grain bill. I don't think it matters for this experiment whether we do all-grain or use extract, but I understand grain would be cheaper. If we're trying to keep costs down grain would seem to be the way to go.
If I understand everyone's position, so far I think we can agree on Yarrow and Wormwood. I would still like to see some sage at least in the dry herbing, but I will bow to everyone's collective wishes.
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