Next up on my quest for hopless beer is New Belgium's Gruit
New Belgium is in Fort Collins, Colorado and they've been around since 1991 which makes them craft brew veterans. I find their Fat Tire amber ale in coolers at most summer shindigs I attend at friend's homes. Fat Tire is fine by my palate although I don't go out of my way to buy it. Indeed, I rarely give New Belgium's annuals and seasonals a glance although I do enjoy 1554 dark lager. However, I do always check out their Lips of Faith line which features more experimental brews. The Coconut Curry Hefeweizen went well with the Thai food I and my fellow RPGers ate at various gaming sessions last winter. And so when I saw that New Belgium had brewed a gruit, I just had to grab a bottle.
I must admit to being quite surprised when I poured myself a glass and found that, unlike my local gruit from Vintage
, this stuff was so pale in color. My chromatic confusion must surely be because I associate gruit with being the stuff people in 1350 quaffed after a hard day of setting the bodies of plague victims alight which would have been dark and smoky. Instead New Belgium's iteration is a nice dark straw hue that's a big hazy from the wheat in the grain bill. I got a nice white head while a modicum of bubbles were found below.
With an herb/spice mix containing ingredients that I was unfamiliar with, I was keen on taking a whiff to find out what these exotic botanicals smelled like. It's just extra fun knowing that you're to get something different instead of more fucking grapefruit hop aroma. My nose caught plum, a bit of sweet, doughy malt, orange, and a floral scent which I presumed to be the elderflowers.
The first thing my tongue noticed was that tingling from carbonation. The beer didn't look particularly effervescent but it tasted so. Beyond that the elderflowers returned from the aroma and there was more of the stone fruit malt sweetness. The beer also had earthy, almost musky, overtones. I'm not sure if these came from a particular botanical or if it was the product of multiple herbs/spices. Whatever the case, they complemented the floral taste really well and made a nice contrast to the sweetness of the malt. The gruit had a medium-light body which was smooth as it was brewed with oats. As the beer warmed, the malt became more prominent yet the balance of flavors remained.
The bitterness came at the finish. All that bog myrtle, horehound, yarrow, and wormwood really did the job and it was a lasting bitterness. Just like with the Vintage gruit, there was a subtle minty burn here as well which I take to the bog myrtle. My glass was left with some nice lacing.
I am beginning to get the hang of the new-fangled gruits. You use a few herbs/spices that are bitter and then something floral for aroma and to add to the flavor. As it stands, New Belgium's gruit is mighty tasty. My palate has really taken to floral flavors in beer. There's a pleasing détente here between the sweet and the bitter, the earthy and the floral. While I'm sure an India Pale Gruit with 100 I.B.U.s of mouth-puckering wormwood astringency can't be too long in coming, I enjoy the gentle bitterness of the gruit. I also really appreciate how this brew's body had one foot each in the medium and light. The beer is easy-drinking yet it does not venture into the lawnmower beer realm. It is, ominously enough, 6.66% A.B.V. yet it doesn't taste that big.
Junk food pairing: New Belgium's Gruit pairs well with rosemary potato chips. Even better if there's garlic on 'em too.
Labels: Beer, Gruit, New Belgium