It’s a miracle! I went to Bailey’s the other night to try and catch up on some of the beers that had left me in their dust, and after a single sip of Roots Gruit Kolsch, I was feeling better already. Some of you doubters (i.e. doctors) are just going to say it was the alcohol numbing me, but that’s far too logical a theory and doesn’t support where I’m trying to go with all this. Which is… that this beer is delicious and can cure you of anything. Measles, ebola, cancer, a rocky marriage… you name it.
But what the hell is it, I hear you ask? For those who left their beer dictionary at home, here’s a quick breakdown on what gruit and kolsch mean (you should already know what Roots means—it’s that organic brewery over on the east side). A gruit beer is one in which there are no hops, but instead, a mix of herbs which differs depending on the brewer and is used to flavor the beer and add complexity and preserving qualities to the otherwise all-malt mixture. Before hops became all the rage, all beers were gruit beers.
Kolsch, meanwhile, is a style that originated in Cologne, Germany and lies somewhere between a Helles and a Pilsner in the sweet-to-hoppy ratio. It’s hoppier than a Helles, but not as hoppy as a Pilsner. The other big difference is that it happens to be an ale instead of a lager, even though it shares the light-bodied flavor and yellow color of its compatriots.
For a gruit beer, Roots has knocked it out of the park. It’s sweet and fruity but clean with no bite and very little aftertaste. The carbonation is quiet with tiny bubbles and the flavors evoked are that of white grapes and just a hint of orange citrus. According to Roots’ website, they used hand-picked lavender and chamomile from their gardens when devising their gruit mix recipe, which would account for that clean but fruity and smooth taste.
Of course, as a Kolsch, this isn’t very authentic at all. A Kolsch is supposed to have a pronounced hop flavor, but this beer doesn’t have ANY hops! So calling this beer a “gruit kolsch” is really an oxymoron. It’s also far fruitier and more flavorful than a typical Kolsch. I’m assuming that Roots is using “Kolsch” in the loosest sense of the word: an ale so light, you might confuse it for a lager. They probably decided that for people looking for a light, summery beer, it was important to add the more familiar word, “Kolsch” to the less well known “Gruit.”
Regardless of what they’re calling it, this beer is another delicious addition to a summer full of great light beers. West coast breweries have really been stepping up this season with a number of variations on styles that normally bore me to tears. Now there’s even a cure for that!