13th Century Grut Bier



Rating:  out of 5

   Review Date 12/27/2008

We all know how those Germans (sticklers that they are for minutiae) like their beer simple and unadulterated. In fact, they stress on it so that way back in 1516 the Bavarians passed a law limiting the ingredients to water, barley, and hops (they didn't know about yeast yet), though they made exceptions for wheat. And they refused to join the German union in 1871 unless their law was extended to the whole country. And it was, of course.

But wait. Hold on there, beer purist. Because beer has been around long before 1516, and wasn't always seasoned with hops. Even in Germany, many other spices were used to balance the natural sweetness of the malt, at least before 1516 anyway. And now you can step back in time and see just what those days might have been like when you pop open a half liter bottle of 13th Century Grut Bier, another experiment in the "Historic Signature Series" brewed in Munich by Dr. Fritz Briem.

13th Century Grut Bier pours to a straw-like whitish yellow color with a huge spritzy head formation that seems to fade almost as quickly as it formed. That tells me pretty nicely this is a wheat beer, if I hadn't known that already. I'm pretty excited about the aroma on this one, and as I set my nose to the grindstone (errr, the glass in this case) it's immediately taken hostage by a veritable army of spices, parading by in noble order one after another as I pick them out and analyze them.

I'd tell you what they are in the aroma, but hey, they're all about to make an appearance in the palate, and I wouldn't want to reveal the plot on this one too early, now would I? Though I can tell you I picked up the caraway first and foremost.

Taking a sip, I like the refreshing, quenching wheat body immediately, tart and crackery as it is. But the spices all show up quickly enough, again with the seedy caraway reminding me of a fresh slice of rye bread, then the woody, aromatic rosemary, the herbal, savory bay, and the wonderfully spicy ginger. Anis is also used, though I don't really find it so much, and Enzian.

The finish is even tarter, maybe even a tad sour, and wonderfully drinkable. I don't get any bitterness really, though there are wild hops used. I think this experiment would have been a tad more interesting without them, just to give us a taste of what beers spiced entirely without hops tasted like long ago. Still, this is a delightful little beer, dry with spice in the finish, and moderate in alcohol at 4.6% by volume.

A natural with meats of any kind. I'm sipping a bottle a few days after Christmas, and imagine it would have paired magnificently with the leg of lamb we served on Christmas Day, rubbed down as it was with olive oil and rosemary.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.



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