hist-brewing: Re: hist-brewing digest, Vol 1 #77 - 3 msgs

Randy Mosher rmosher at 21stcentury.net
Mon May 20 15:01:43 PDT 2002


According to J.S. Arnold, "The Origin & History of Beer & Brewing" (1911),
who discusses this topic at some length, there exists in Cologne an
inventory of gruit stocks &/or aquisitions dating from Oct. 1391 to May

"According to these itemized accounts, then, gruit consisted not alone of
Myrica gale and Ledum palustre, but also of juniper berries, ginger, caraway
seed, aniseed, and several other ingredients. Scheben [Die Kunst der Brauer
in Koln] says that to judge by the inventory, myrica gale and juniper
berries were the chief ingredients."

A couple of paragraphs later, Arnold says:

"While along the lower Rhine, especially in Cologne, Myrica gale formed the
fundamental substance of the gruit, in Westphalia it seems to have been
mainly composed of Ledum Palusrte, Porze, Porsz or Post. Porze or wild
rosemary was, according to Grewe [Braugewerbe der Stadt Muenster, 1907],
used in Westphaila, notanbly in the county of Tecklenburg, until the end of
the 17th century, and seems to have enjoyed a great popularity. Wild
rosemary, says the same author, because of its spicy taste and stimulating
effect, was highly considered for brewing purposes, and, in fact, it was
still generally employed, even after the use of hops had been universally
adopted, almost down to the present time."

He also says a few paragraphs earlier:

" Opinions as to what went into the composition of gruit differed formerly,
and even today, somewhat. However to judge from the scant information that
has come down to us on this point, it must have been chiefly three plants
which formed the stock of the gruit, namely:

1. Myrica Gale, sweet gale, called in Westphalia pors, porze, porst, and the
same in Danish, as well as Swedish; well-known also in the moors and bogs of
Scotland and elsewhere.

2. Ledum Palustre, marsh or wild rosemary, in German Sumpfporst, Porst,
wilder Rosemarin, Bienen-, Brauerkraut, also Wanzen- or Mottenkraut (moth or
bug herb).

3. Achillea Millefolium. milfoil, yarrow; German Schafgarbe."

Everywhere I've seen spices for gruit enumerated, the three (MG, LP, Y) are
always mentioned, even in the older books. I know bad information does get
repeated, but the preceeding quote would indicate, at least in certain
places, that LP was valued in its own right as a brewing spice.

A more modern source, is the huge work on unhopped beers by Christian
Ra(")tsch, "Urbock: Bier jenseits von Hopfen und Malz."

He gives some German names for wild rosemary:

"Brauerkraut, Gruitkraut, Gruiz, Grund, Gruut, Borse, Pors, Porsch, Post,
Pursch, Porstkraut, Kien-Porst, Ku"hnrost, Kiefernporst, Tannen-porst,
Rosmarinporst, Moor-rosmarin, Wilder Rosmarin, Bo"hmischer Rosmarin,
Waldrosmarin, Morose, Mottenkraut, Flohkraut, Wanzenkraut, WeiBe heide,
Hartheidem Zeitheide, Bienenheide, Bienenscheide, Heidenbienenkraut,
Mutterkraut, Zeitheil, Altseim, Gichtlanne, Sautanne, Gra"nze,
Schweineposse, Robkraut, Bagen, Baganz, and Rausch."

(" = Umlaut, B = esset/ss)

--Randy Mosher

> Message: 2
> Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 09:51:18 +0100
> Subject: Re: hist-brewing: Gruit herbs (was: Marsh Rosemary)
> From: Martyn Cornell <atrectus at blueyonder.co.uk>
> To: Historic brewing <hist-brewing at pbm.com>
> I would like to take this opportunity to express an apparently heretical
> proposition: I don't think medieval European brewers used marsh rosemary,
> Ledum Palustre, except probably in desperation when they couldn't get hold
> of sweet gale.
> I know various modern reproductions of gruit ales, including the one in the
> Durden Park Beer Club's book Old British Ales and How to Make Them, have
> recipes that include sweet gale, marsh rosemary and yarrow together, but I
> think this is a mistake: I believe it is more logical to assume these
> ingredients would only have been used separately, and certainly sweet gale
> and marsh rosemary would never have been used together.
> The logic for this is as follows:
> Sweet gale and marsh rosemary are similar-looking plants with similar
> flavours growing in similar places: why use both if you can get hold of one=
> ?
> If you can get sweet gale, it must be better to brew with, because marsh
> rosemary has seriously more toxic side-effects than sweet gale does
> (headaches? you'll have more than headaches.)
> The perceived similarity of the two plants is seen in the names given to
> them in German and Norwegian: Porst and pors for sweet gale, Schweineporst
> and Finnmark pors for marsh rosemary
> However, the German name for marsh rosemary, Schweineporst, which translate=
> s
> as "pigs' gale", suggests very strongly that it was seen as a poor
> substitute for true porst, rather like chestnuts and horse chestnuts in
> English (I don't know if Finnmark pors, which means "gale from Finnmark
> county", has derogatory overtones or not: anybody with knowledge of how
> Norwegians feel about things from Finnmark? The name means "The Finnish
> March", or border territory, and as you would expect it is up in Northern
> Norway on the border with Finland)
> Comments would be very welcome =8A
> Martyn Cornell
> --
> =B3Beer is a popular subject, and the literature abounds in unsupported
> statements, misleading or inaccurate quotations and inaccurate references.=B2
> D Gay Wilson, 1975
> =20

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