Today beer as we know it is made by useing hops for spicing. Hops provide bitterness, flavor, and aroma to beer. Hops balance out malt character to improve beer drinkability. Hops also act as a preservative, helping to maintain flavor in beer as it is aged, transported, and stored.
But did you know that hops have only really been used in beer for about the last 500 years. It wasn’t until the 16th century that hops in beer became the standard.
Taking into account that beer has been around for at least 4000-9000 years or more, there was a long time when other herbs, such as gale, yarrow, and rosemary, among many others were used instead of hops.
The ancient brews (which are, by the way, still produced in some places today) are called gruit ales, or simply gruits. They were brewed all over the Europe between 700 and 1700 AD. The exclusive use of gruit herbs in Europe started to change around 1100AD when it was learned that hops were a very good antiseptic, meaning that they retarded the growth of bacteria and preserved the ale longer then the herbs did.
Remember also that there was no refrigeration in those days and a batch of brew would last only so long with just alcohol and the herbs to prevent spoilage. Because of this bacteria problem the brews of that era were stronger in alcohol and bitterer then today’s beers.
The other very significant difference between hops and gruit herbs is that the hops have a sedative value to them (they make you sleepy) and the gruit herbs have psychoactive properties (they wake you up). That is why we’ve heard the tales of partying for days on end. Gruit ales were made from a many recipes that were the property of the brewer, which means todays brewers don’t have a lot of the old recipes to make the modern gruits by.
Well, I guess that leaves a lot of possibilities for expertiments!
Drink Welll & Be happy!!!!!