Okay Philip, allow me to explain with a new post!

The question is, why do Kyle and 2 of his good friends have rockin' mustaches in the previous post?

The answer is Movember.

Jack (featured above, twirling), introduced me to Movember just this year.  The idea is that some men were a little jealous of women and all of their pink ribbons and breast cancer awareness.  Where was our pink ribbon?  Well that's an easy answer- men do not wear pink ribbons if they can avoid it- instead, men grow mustaches!  aha! we will all grow mustaches and in so doing raise public awareness for all of the men's cancers that previously went unnoticed in the world!

This is really a win-win idea, and I applaud the genius behind it.

Technically, if you're really a supporter, you like rally a team or something, have people sponsor you, perhaps voting on mustache styles- but, well, we're just growing mustaches (wearing our pink ribbons).  It's kind of fun.  And the women are not allowed to complain as loudly as they could if you were growing a mustache for no purpose whatsoever.

Now with that explanation out of the way, let us move on to Movembeer!

This is batch number 3 of Singapore, and I'm stepping up my game.  #1 was a kit brew, kicked up a notch with the addition of a good belgian yeast.  #2 a Sam Adams Summer ale clone (oh how I miss it)- I bottled it on Saturday morning right before starting this brew- I think it's going to be good, but we'll have to wait a few more weeks to know for sure.  And finally, #3 is a whole new style- a gruit ale.

Gruit (grew-it), you see, is ancient beer.  Or at least middle aged beer.  Way back in the day, hops did not rule the beer world.  Today, in case you were not aware, you probably have not ever had a beer that lacks hops.  And so, some may think it strange that you'd ever toy with the perfected product we have in the form of beer.  But- think about it, how did hops become the front runner?  it's a pretty odd little plant (herb?)- that as far as I'm aware, has no other modern use.  I really don't know all the history, maybe we can get into it in some other post, but my guess is there's a set of random events that led to hops being the main bittering component to beer, and it could have just as easily been 30 different things.  Hops has a natural antibacterial property, which, especially prior to modern knowledge of infection, probably helped it to win out.

 the brew
But other stuff was used.  Things like yarrow, and bog myrtle, and lavender, and heather, and probably lots of other forgotten spices/herbs/poisons.  My beer didn't use yarrow, but I feel like we could just as easily be having this conversation where I decide to try making a beer with hops instead of the standard yarrow that everyone in the world uses.  And yarrow would be a household word, and make money for a lot of people.  Maybe hops is easier to cultivate... like I said, another time.

Again, hops really has 2 purposes- 1st to help stave off infection, and 2nd to add a bitter component to the beer- balancing out a malty sweetness that would be present otherwise.  I've had gruit served in one microbrewery in Boston which was just fantastic- you could almost put it in an entirely different class, as different from beer as wine is- but in a different direction.  I've wanted to try making my own for a while.  I finally found a recipe online (through byo.com if you're interested), and decided to give it a go.  It calls for lavender, juniper berries, rosemary, and woodruff.  I never did locate woodruff.  I read that you can add a splash of vermouth early in fermentation which will provide some of the same flavor as woodruff would have- but I also read in a few locations that these recipes are all so made up, it's not as if you'll know what it's lacking.

The only real difference in the process for creating gruit (see this post for old explanation) is that rather than adding hops early on and boiling for a significant time to extract oils- I created a (very aromatic) tea from all of my herbs.  I steeped this for an hour (boiling water at the start, left to cool on the counter)- then strained the tea into my brew pot.  Added grains and malt extract as usual, boiled just 15 minutes, cooled, added yeast and done.

It is now 3 days in, the sweetness has been toned down with the creation of alcohol, and it's maintaining a very nice sort of floral herby aroma and taste.  I think it's probably only 3% alcohol now so it still has a lot of flavor changing to do.  The best news is that despite lacking hops protection, it does not seem to be getting infected with anything.

Will update with tasting notes in a couple months!

And bringing it full circle, here I am stirring the wort with my 2 local brew pals.  Coincidentally, each also has a mustache, despite not formally taking part in Movember celebrations.