Friday, 9 November 2012

Gruit Grists

In my post about brewing a gruit at Beau's in Canada, I mentioned that I had a series of gruit grists for medieval Holland. Some of you asked if I could publish them. What can I say? your wish is my command.

To be honest, these aren't all Gruits. Hopbier, unsusprisingly, was hopped. Bet you never would have guessed that, eh? Koyt I'm pretty sure was always a Gruit. The others without a specific name? Who knows. They could be either hopped or not.

Here's a table with all the details. The very last entry was the basis of the Beau's beer.

Dutch Medieval Grists
Year Town beer OG (Plato) litres beer grain (kg) oats wheat barley rye hart coerens oats or rye or mesteluyn (a mix of wheat and rye)
1340 Delft Hopbier or Turfbier 18.9 3725 1274 837 437
1404 Utrecht Hopbier 13.2 3100 747 477 270
1433 Utrecht Dubbelde Hoppen 20.3 2480 915 645 270
1433 Utrecht Dubbelde Koyte 20.1 2800 1019 484 190 345
1433 Utrecht Eenwisselen Bier (Hoppe or Koyte) 15.8 2480 714 484 230
1447 Utrecht Dik Bier 18.1 2480 1018 403 270 345
1451 Utrecht Dun Bier 11.5 2480 518 403 115
1491 Utrecht Bier 19.2 2480 868 523 345
1491 Utrecht Bier 19.5 3725 915 685 230
1407 Haarlem Hopbier 20.5 1790 668 465 203
1407 Haarlem Hopbier 21 1790 685 465 183 37
1407 Haarlem Koyt 777 310 244 223
1501 Haarlem Hopbier 19.9 1850 668 465 203
1501 Haarlem Hopbier 21.2 1850 718 465 142 111
1407 Haarlem Koyt 13.7 3950 985 413 203 369
15th C Amsterdam Bier 16.6 3100 935 336 240 359
1475 Naarden Bier 18.6 2480 837 480 151 206
1484 Amerfsfoort Bier 24.4 2480 1098 630 198 270
1484 Amerfsfoort Bier 15.6 3880 1098 630 198 270
1488 Gouda Bier 15.6 3820 1085 19 sacks oats, spelt, wheat, rye or barley
1513 Gouda Bier 14.5 3950 1040 540 274 226
1497 Leiden Bier 8.5 5120 794 180 294 320
1497 Leiden Bier 8.6 4350 684 148 262 274
1500 Wijk-bij-Duurstede Bier 23.8 3725 1615 650 408 557
1515 Zutphen Eenvoudige Koyten 9.5 4970 863 348 183 332
1515 Zutphen Dubbele Koyten 18.8 3100 1058 426 244 388
De Middeleeuwse brouwerij en de gruit by G. Doorman, 1955.

Notice the crazy amount of oats in just about everything - as much as 80% in some cases. Only a couple of the Leiden beers contain none. You'll also see that none of the beers used a single type of grain. All used at least two and sometimes more. This was typical in all of the Low Countries, both what is now Belgium as well as Holland.

This has just been a short aside. I'll be back to WW I and/or Scotland next time.


Rob Sterowski said...

Only one of the beers is mentioned as ever containing rye. Horst Dornbusch says that rye beer was a popular medieval ale until the evil Reinheitsgebot stopped the Germans from brewing it. Surely the folks in the Low Countries would be brewing with rye too? Unless ... could it be ... maybe ... Dornbusch is full of shit?

Jeff Renner said...

What is/are hart coerens? Looks like corn hearts. Perhaps barley grits? Or perhaps barley germ, although I wouldn't think that would be a useful adjunct.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, not sure, to be honest. I think "hart" might mean "hard", so hard corn. Not sure what that might be, though.

Ron Pattinson said...

Barm, I was surprised there was only one because I seemed to remember more Low Country beers containing rye. Though that might have been in Unger's book on Ducth brewing.

The Reinheitsgebot stopped Germans from brewing with rye? Bollocks. It stopped Bavarians brewing with rye.

I'm trying to remember if I've seen rye in a German grist. Not sure I have.

Rob said...


Roggenbiers should have rye.

Gary Gillman said...

Unger's book IIRC (or another source if not he) stated that rye grew well only in certain parts of Holland, I think the east and south, so it would make sense that rye appeared in beers, and bread, more in that area than others. He has a table showing comparative use of rye and other grains in brewing but I can't consult it from where I am at the moment.

Interesting about hard corn. In the States, a form of maize corn, called flint corn, is known which has a tough outer skin and indeed it was later grown in Europe for non-human consumption. Coerns of course would not refer to maize but to another grain of some kind, as in the old U.K. expression, "corn laws", but perhaps it referred to a grain type that similarly had a stout outer skin.

Rye is difficult to mash since it has no husk, and can cause sticky mashes when used in any quantity. Perhaps this dissuaded brewers in Germany although there is the modern Roggenbier. Does it have a pedigree though, or is it a modern invention?


Jeff Renner said...

Ron - perhaps hard corn means unmelted corn, which is certainly harder than malt.

Martyn Cornell said...

Oats, as I'm sure I've said here before, were used in massive amounts in, eg, the 13th century brewery at St Paul's in London. But oats to any great extent in brewing had died out in much of England, apart from, at least, the West Country by the esrly 16th century: when the English navy was offered West Country-brewed oat beer in 1513, the sailors refused to drink it.

Odd Nordland says Norwegian farm brewers used malted oats in their ale up to the 20th century, though it was a longer process to malt oats than to make malted barley: a Norwegian who was a couple of gallons short of the full barrel was sometimes said to be “like oats malt”, a bit slow.

If "hart" does mean "hard", my guess is that "hart coerens" meant "unmalted grain": etymologically, "malt" comes from a work meaning "soft".

In the Netherlands, according to Bier: geschiedenis van een Volksdrank, published in English in 1994 as Beer! The story of Holland's favourite drink, which has a fascinating chapter on gruit. the regular ingredients in gruit in the early 15th century seem to have been "gagel", that is, bog myrtle or sweet gale, Myrica gale, called "Pors" in Germany; "slangekruid" (also known as ""serpentien", see below), viper's bugloss, Echium vulgare, a member of the borage family; bay laurel berries (as used by the wife of the Elizabethan writer William Harrison in her beer brewing); and something called "hars", resin, origin and nature unspecified.

Another, less scholarly (or more populist) Dutch publication from 1984, Bier, by Otto Holzhaus and Leo van Noppen, says "gagel", Myrica gale was the "substantial" ingredient in gruit, but was "insufficient" on its own and came with all sorts of other herbs, including "hars" (resin – see above), "serpentien" (viper's bugloss), "laurier" (bay laurel), "moeras-rozemarijn" ("swamp rosemary", also known as wild rosemary, and "Falscher Pors" in Germany, Ledum palustre), "salie" (sage), "duizendblad" (yarrow) and coriander.

Edward said...

I'm guessing the oats (and probably most of those grains) would have been malted? Are the gravities from the historical documentation or estimated from the grists? I didn't think the use of hydrometers was common that far back.