We've just passed October, the most ubiquitously beer-centered month of the year. Beer weeks, fests and regular imbibing occasions aside, it is 31 days totally dominated by all things Oktoberfest. It was the Germans, after all, who drafted the rules of what is and isn't beer with their Reinheitsgebot ("German Purity Law") in 1516: water, barley and hops. We're not much for rules at Bottle & Tap, so this month we're writing about beverages that not only utterly violate this law, but well precede it.
The first beverage under consideration is Lips Of Faith's Gruit, a Scottish-style gruit (a pre-hops combination of herbs for brewing) based on a medieval recipe. It weighed in at 6.66 percent ABV and an IBU rating of 3, a cauldron-worthy blend of horehound, bog myrtle, yarrow, wormwood and elderflowers standing in for the hops. Pouring with a perfectly clear, golden yellow color and healthy head, even the most devout Kraut would be unable to visually distinguish this Caledonian law-breaker from any pilsner on offer. The aroma, giving off a bitter, apple-like scent, bore more than a passing semblance to Coors Light. It only took a sip to betray its Highlander heritage, though—Gruit drinks like your favorite, mildly memorable summer lager flavored with the ashy, peaty complexity found in the best single-malt scotches of any era.
The other gruit readily available actually comes straight out of Munich. Pragmatically named the 13th Century Grut Bier, it is brewed by Dr. Fritz Briem, who received his Ph.D. from the Weihenstephan, the Benedictine Monastery at the Bavarian heart of German brewing. It's especially daring, then, that he offers up a beer brewed not only without hops but with bay leaves, ginger, caraway seeds and gentian, a flower I knew not even to exist until I read it on the label as substitute. Despite this spice rack of ingredients, the Grut had a fruity bouquet—primarily grapefruit, applesauce and orange—and possessed the same vegetal, bitter flavor profile of the LOF Gruit. There was enough fruit on these plants to balance the bitterness out, thankfully, and the finish, reminiscent of both biscuits and bay leaves, leaves the drinker hoping for more beer sedition in the Vaterland.
Argus Cidery represents the New World with their tepache, a Central American beverage that combines pineapple (rinds and all) and wild yeast to produce something akin to tropical lambic ale. Pouring out a deep yellow and semi-filtered color, the tepache combines the sweetness and spice of its source fruit with the funky, palate-smacking bite of both domesticated and wild yeasts. With a recipe straight out of pre-Columbian Mexico, the tepache is a perfect choice for those who prefer to get their oom-pahs from Banda el Rocodo this time of year.