Monday, 1 February 2010

Dutch grists in the late Middle Ages

I'm terrible when it comes to books. Ones about beer, that is. I have to buy them, but then leave them, sometimes for years, before looking at them properly.

"De Middeleeuwse Brouwerij en de Gruit" is a good case in point. I think I bought it in the second half of 2009. Though admittedly that's a guess based on how deep it was down my book pile. I could have had it longer.

Earlier this week I was asked a question about Dister Bier. One of the books I consulted was "De Middeleeuwse Brouwerij en de Gruit". Didn't find anything about Dister, but I did find a table of late medieval beer grists. And you know what a sucker I am for tables.

The demonstrates a particular feature of brewing in the Low Countries: using multiple grains. And, even stranger, using a majority of oats in the grist.  A practice that still lives on today in beers such as Tripel Karmeliet.

Take a look:

Mud. Is that a great name for a measure or what? But I digress. There are three types of beer listed: hopbier, koyte and turfbier. Hopbier is pretty effing obvious: beer with hops. Koyte was a gruit beer, flavoured with herbs rather than hops. And turfbier? Not the foggiest idea what that might be. Though it does appear to be another form of gruit beer.

I'd best warn you. This is just a small part of the orignal table. Expect me to pester you with more in the coming days.


Oblivious said...

Ron do you have much information on the black buckwheat beer?

Oblivious said...

Could turfbier have anything to do with drying the malt or grain with peat?

Oblivious said...

Some information here suggesting it might have to do with a hop beer limited to winter production in the 14th Century? Sorry about the long link

Ron Pattinson said...

Oblivious, I've seen mentions of black buckwheat beer but that's about it. I think it was someone English being rather disparaging about it.

Absolutely no idea what Turfbier is. It could well just be a name with no particular reference to how the beer was made.

Ed said...

What herbs were used in the gruit?

Anonymous said...

Probably it's the same as Whiskey Malt so kilning on a direct peat heated kiln. As the fuel used in Holland at that time mostly was peat.

Ron Pattinson said...

Oblivious, good link. Looks as if turfbier was just another name for hoppbier.

I really must read "Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance" by Richard W. Unger. I picked up a copy a couple of months ago.

Anonymous said...

Using oats - in massive quantities - happened in England in the "middle" Middle Ages. Details of what they used to brew with at St Paul's in London around 1286 are here: you'll see they were using on average 79 bushels of grain per brew, made up of 12.5 bushels of wheat and 10.5 bushels of barley, each at seven bushels to the quarter, and 56 bushels of oats at eight bushels the quarter (presumably because the oats were lighter) to produce an average 678 gallons of ale, around 20 (ale) barrels at roughly two barrels to the quarter, a standard amount of malt for strong ale in later times, but who knows what sort of yields they were getting with a grain bill like that … anyone want to try to calculate it?

Jeff Renner said...

Martyn (Zythophile) - That's the reference (although from a different source) that I mentioned a week or two ago that I used to make my "Domesday Ale." This was back in 1998, and I might do it differently now, knowing what I do today.

There are several threads about this project at the now largely quiescent Historic Brewing discussion group, one starting at

and several others following.

You have to look down the page a bit as two threads include the word "Domesday" but there are others about oats, to malt or not, and St. Paul's ale.

I might return to this project again with commercial malted oats and gruit.