hist-brewing: gruit sources

Henry Davis henry at henry-davis.com
Sun Jan 14 21:03:02 PST 2001

At 08:27 PM 1/14/01 -0500, you wrote:
>In a message dated 1/14/01 4:42:57 AM Central Standard Time,
> >
>     Agreed.
>     However, we probably should not get wrapped around the axle about
>the Gruit Guild.  The guilds in general sold themselves to the public as a
>group of experts who provided a quality service, but in reality they were
>what we would call "a conspiracy in restraint of trade".  This is particularly
>true of the mercantile guilds such as the Gruit Guild.

Do remember that guit rights were generally granted by Royal Patent, so 
there wasn't so much a conspiracy as public restraint of trade. The main 
reason for restricting the rights to make/sell gruit was for the taxes. 
And, FWIW, the practice was well established in the 13th century in the low 
countries. In some areas gruit rights were the provence of the church, 
while in others it was exclusively the lesser royalty.

>     The Guild did not invent gruit, and neither did the Church.  The use of
>various individual herbs as gruits was undoubtedly discovered by various
>individual brewsters, who used them in whatever form was available.

Absolutely true.

>     When the Gruit Guild reared its ugly head in late Medieval times,
>it presumably concentrated on those gruit herbs which could be
>collected, dried, stored, and shipped.

I'm interested in the Guild. Do you have a citation for it?

>  But out in the hinterlands,
>unlettered alewives were still brewing good ale gruited with herbs they
>picked themselves.

And unfortunately the byindustrial ale tradition in which the brewer 
selected their own herbs has been largely lost - after all it was women's 
work and not worth recording except as a guide for new wives...

I've recently moved so most of my brewing sources are packed away. But, as 
I can dig them out I'm happy to contribute.


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