Fearful Symmetries

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23 June, 2015

What Frederick II Drank After a Hard Day of Crusading: Prof. Briem's Grut Bier

Next on the gruit docket is Professor Fritz Briem's 13th Century Grut Bier. Who is Prof. Fritz Briem? From what I can gather, he is a big wig at the Doemens Institute in Germany which appears to be a sister organization to the Siebel Institute in Chicago where he also held a position. (The Sielbel Institute in Chicago is where one can learn to brew professionally.) Matthias Neidhart of importer/distributor B. United International approached Herr Briem about historical beer styles and the result was the Historic Signature Series. Briem developed the recipes while the beers themselves are, according to Beer Advocate, brewed at the Weihenstephan brewery. In addition to the gruit at hand, two other beers have been brewed in the series under Briem's auspices: 1809 Berliner Weisse and Grodziskie.

Unlike the other two gruits I've had recently, Briem uses neither bog myrtle nor mugwort in his brew. Instead we have bay, ginger, caraway, anise, rosemary, and gentian. Oh, and there's also pollinated wild hops. Quite an interesting mix. (I'd never heard of gentian and had to look it up. It's a flower that is used in many beverages in Alpine areas.) Can there be hops in gruit? Sure, why not? One can imagine a brewer in the High Middle Ages having hops as but one among a vast array of botanicals to flavor his or her beer before the lupulin devil took pride of place.

Briem's brew poured a light gold color and was slightly hazy which is not surprising considering that there is wheat in the grain bill in addition to barley. I got a paltry head which dissipated rather quickly. The beer was not particularly effervescent either as there was only a periodic bubble to be seen. And what did this concoction smell like? I definitely caught the ginger. There was also a floral scent in there which I presume was the gentian. A hint of pine and some malt sweetness rounded out the aroma.

The ginger returned on the tongue while the rosemary and anise were also quite discernible in moderate amounts. The beer was light-bodied with just a bit of carbonation evident on the palate. I was a bit surprised to find that the brew was slightly tart like a Berliner Weisse with a bit of that lemony/citrusy tartness. It was really the botanicals that shone through here with the malt and wheat in the background. As the beer made its way back the bay and caraway came out and wasn't bitter at all.

As I drank my glass was left with little Schaumhaftvermoegen.

Of the three gruits I've tried so far, this one has the lightest body which has the effect of emphasizing the botanicals. There's no bog myrtle or wormwood here for bittering which makes for a very different taste – he's not trying to emulate the role of hops here. In addition, Vintage and New Belgium's brews had much more prominent floral tastes than Briem's gruit. Instead he utilizes spices and herbs with sharper flavors that contrast more with the grainy flavors and sweetness.

My gruit trifecta has been a flavorful journey but I must admit that Briem's take enthused me the least. This is partly because I really like floral flavors which are absent here and I am not a fan of anise while I can take or leave caraway most of the time. (Unseeded rye for me, thanks.) However, neither the caraway nor anise was very prominent here. I could taste them but there was a lot happening on my tongue at the time. Don't like the anise? Then don't worry because there's ginger and rosemary around the corner to help. This gruit is a bit of a roller coaster ride in that new flavors are always appearing. You get some this on the front and then some of that on the middle of your tongue and yet even more new flavors appear in the finish. It gets high marks from me for a having just the right amount of tartness and a high refreshment factor for warmer weather with a moderate alcohol content of 4.6% A.B.V.

Junk food pairing: Prof. Briem's Grut Bier pairs well with Snyder's Bacon Cheddar Pretzel Pieces. You've got the two main German culinary staples: beer und pork.

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|| Palmer, 7:20 PM


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