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Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Gruits at Earth Eagle Brewings

One of the few brewers in the U.S. experimenting with hop-free beers. 

Humans have been drinking beer for at least 8,000 years—and, for almost all that time, beer looked nothing like the industrial lager or hop-heavy craft brews popular now.

Though today’s brewers consider hops a crucial ingredient in beer, it wasn’t until medieval Europe that the bitter plant became a popular addition. Gruit ales were flavored with a mix of herbs, the old-fashioned way to bitter a brew before hops surpassed it between the 11th and 16th centuries.  Until then, hops were just “one of the bazillion things you could put in a beer,” brewer Butch Heilshorn told Gastropod. Heilshorn is one of the few brewers in America experimenting with “gruits,” as hop-free beers are called. 

For this episode, Gastropod visited Earth Eagle Brewings, the Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based brewery Heilshorn co-founded in 2012, to learn how the future of beer might lie in its long-forgotten past.

Know Before You Go

If you’re over 21, you too can taste Butch Heilshorn’s surprisingly tasty creations at Earth Eagle Brewings, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. To find a gruit in your neighborhood, check out International Gruit Day, held at bars and breweries around the world every February 1.