Gulf Island Brewery Salt Spring Island Heather Ale was another beer I got in my second beer exchange with Leapbeer. Gulf Island Brewery is located on Salt Spring Island, a smaller island just off the coast of Vancouver Island. They began production in 1998 and remain a small family operation with a massive staff, including owners, of 4.
Gruit predates the common use of hops as the balanced/preserving agent used in beers. The various herbs and spices were used to balance the sweetness of the malts, cover up any off flavors, and provide whatever herbal benefits the ingredients imparted. There is no “standard” mixture for Gruit. It largely depends on what’s local, available, worth using, and useful. Salt Spring Island Ales Saturnalia Gruit hearkens back to this ancient method of brewing with the second installment in their Gruit series. This beer is brewed without hops and only uses spice and herbs.
Appearance: Brown with ruby highlights, tan head, ok to poor retention.
Aroma: Anise, vanilla, cinnamon, milk chocolate.
Taste: Chocolate, “sarsaparilla,” cocoa on the finish.
Overall Impression: This is a very spice dominant beer. It had a lot of flavors you’d find in root beer. It’s certainly an interesting experiment on their part, and one worth trying on your part. This beer certainly isn’t for everyone. If you’re feeling adventuresome, give it a go and see what pushing the modern boundaries of brewing by looking at our ancient past tastes like.
Availability: Seasonally in British Columbia. May be nearly gone by now.