Gruit Ales — Craft beer or No?
UPDATE --> I am currently working with the TTB to try to get recipes sans grains recognized by the powers that be. In the meantime I am brewing with a variety of ancient grains to be compliant with current standards. The brews remain packed with plant power and gluten free!
I want to invite you into a conversation that I’ve been having IRL with friends, colleagues, taste testers etc. about Wave Maiden Ales. There seems to be a bit of a debate — Gruit Ales… Craft beer or not craft beer? Let’s talk about it.
Quite a few people have “let me know” my product is going to be rejected by the craft beer market, that I might have better luck marketing myself as a cider or high alcohol kombucha. Lets review.
Kombucha is black or green tea sweetened and fermented with a SCOBY - a unique combination or bacteria and yeast that produces beneficial good bacteria called probiotics.
The base of hard cider is crushed fruit, typically apples.
Beer is defined as alcohol made from yeast-fermented malt flavored with hops.
Gruit (German for herb) Ale is essentially any brew that uses an herbal mixture as a flavoring or bittering agent in place of hops in the above beer equation.
I am aware that many craft beer enthusiasts are purists. There are a lot of rules that go into the classifications of beers. There are a lot of people either working in or simply fans of the industry that are in it for the hops. In my last blog post I briefly talked about hops. They’re very beautiful plants in many ways, they’re also a sedative causing sleepy feelings and libido decreasing buzz. I'm not necessarily saying that the affect of hops is a bad thing, but I'm suggesting there are many more plant possibilities out there.
In my mind, I see my gruit ale or herbal ale as a beverage that fits into the greater category of craft beer, but I do understand how some might categorize WMA’s as something entirely different. It is what it is, a beautiful form of plant medicine... regardless of what you want to call it.
My hope is that Wave Maiden ales can be appreciated for what they are without being compared to hopped beers. When most of us taste a beer, we have an expectation based on what we’ve had before, obviously. Ranging from light and crisp, to malty and a little bitter, to really really bitter and so on.
Gruits don't taste like that, so they need to be approached differently. The most important part of the approach is an open mind and a release of the resistance to something that doesn’t necessarily follow the normal “rules.” Personally I think thats terribly boring, to be consuming and judging alcohol based on someone else’s “rules.”
Gruit ales have not only unique flavors, but have unique buzzes attached. A buzz could be considered by some more energetic and creative. An additional bonus is that the plants being used in the brews have so many beneficial properties, they profoundly affect the health of our body, mind, and spirit.
I encourage you to approach life (and WMA) with an open mind first and foremost! Be excited about trying something truly unique and different, and experiencing the plants as intoxicating nourishment. Buck the norm--and certainly don't let what's been done guide you to decide what should be!