A few months ago a sales rep came into REB and gave us some samples of their products, including their Forbidden Root Beer. The idea blew my mind, a root beer made with actual roots. Perhaps that’s a stupid statement, given the origin of the beverage… from Sassafras root beverages being concocted on both sides of the pond as early at the 16th century.
Forbidden Root uses botanicals of all kinds, fruits, herbs and spices to produce beverages unlike any I’ve had before. As I started looking into this company, I discovered that Randy Mosher, author of the book below, is the “Alchemist” on staff.
I’ve read this book several times. It is a great introduction to the history of beer, how it’s brewed and many different styles. Mr. Mosher has been a fantastic resource for me and the craft beer world with the written work he has produced and now is having an influence on the beers being brewed. Hallelujah.
The history portion of his book is what came to mind while I was tasting Forbidden Root beers on a recent day trip into the City:
On Page 11, Mr. Mosher begins the discussion of what gruit is, “Prior to 1000 CE, almost all beer sold in Eurose was brewed without hops, seasoned with a pricey mixture called, ‘gruit’.” Later on he discussed what was often included in the gruit seasonings…bog myrtle, yarrow, and wild rosemary were the base of the concoction and, “The witches’ brew was supplemented by whatever culinary seasonings were available: juniper, caraway, aniseed, and possible more exotic spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.”
This is what Forbidden Root means to me. They do indeed use barley and hops in their brews, but they’re using these beautiful agricultural products to take what we know as “beer” to a whole different place. On a new a path but inspired by those of the past.
I took my travel partner in crime to this brewery intentionally. I wanted to see it for myself, to check out their draft selection and drink the brews crafted on site at their point of origin.
The place is pristine. Beautiful, big, clean, and open.
Their brewery was visible but inaccessible.
- Hicktoberfest – Oktoberfest brewed with hickory nuts and tasted hickory bark
- Paragon – Golden Ale breed with Bosc Pears and Tarragon
- Strawberry Basil Hefewizen
- Purple Pil brewed with Lavender and Violet
- Jacob IPA
Each one of them wonderfully crafted, drinkable, accessible, and sessionable. All of them. Afterwards I ordered a full pour of their Gose, amazing, and my friend has their Basque in the Sun, a Saison aged on Spanish Cedar, delightfully complex yet well-blended and oh so subtle.
We had their meat and cheese platter, bought some t-shirts, and stayed there way too long. Their staff was incredibly hospitable and very patient with all of our questions. They also had house speciality cocktails in addition to their brews.
I’ve been talking nonstop about this place since I visited last month, and the one consistent comment I’ve been hearing from beer fanatics is that it sounds gimmicky. Flavoring beers with strawberries and jasmine? Come on.
This place is something different. This is well-thought out craftiness with the involvement of a man who knows a lot about beer and brewing it. It’s causes one to consider what craft brewing can look like while giving a nod to where it began.