Saturnalia Gruit | Salt Spring Island Ales

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Saturnalia GruitSaturnalia Gruit
Saturnalia GruitSaturnalia Gruit

Brewed by:
Salt Spring Island Ales
British Columbia, Canada

Style: Scottish Gruit / Ancient Herbed Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
Named for a Roman Festival of mythical revelry, our Saturnalia Gruit is made without hops, using a special blend of herbs and spices. A darker brew with notes of dark chocolate malt, cinnamon and anise, Saturnalia is our second foray into the realm of ancient ‘Gruit’ Ales. Raise a glass of this truly unique beverage and share a toast to independence and eccentricity.

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

User Reviews & Ratings
Reviews: 4 | Ratings: 6
Photo of chinchill
3.9/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

On tap at Swans Brewery taproom on Vancouver Island.
Pours clear amber with a tall white, durable head.
The aroma is moderately spicy and strong... Appealing.
The unusual grain, spice and herb base is more evident in the very complex flavor.
Overall: exceptionally interesting and recommended.

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Photo of JonCorbett
3.96/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance: Pours a rich dark burnt sienna, closes in on black but you can still a nice red halo at the glasses edges. Lots of fizzy carbonation with a light orange-tan coloured head that takes some aggressive coaxing, and it dissipates fairly quick leaving a clean glass and surface. There is a decent amount of suspended debris that is more noticeable as you get closer to the bottom.

Aromatics: Mostly malty sweetness, almost like a grape soda with lots of dark plum/date and fruity dark honey florals. I don’t get much of a chocolate or anise as they mention on the bottle though, so either my nose is on the fritz or it requires a slightly more sensitive sniff.

Taste: Tangy and slightly sour, subtle cinnamon donates it’s flavour without the spicy zap. Not overly sweet or bitter, almost like a mild wine thanks to the absence of the hops, which really allows the herbs and spices to run around without abandon.

Feel: Good carbonation, lots of fine bubbles and has a decent medium weight. Drys the palate on the finish which is very clean and leaves little to no sensations to loiter.

Overall: Obviously, if you enjoy your hops - this is not for you. I love taking in the smell as I drink it - I can’t get grape soda out of my head and then that complex but well balanced flavour structure just rolls over the palate, no one flavour trying to claim dominance over another. I really enjoyed it. I’m thinking this is my first ancient ale, so as I am unfamiliar with a good benchmark, I can’t take really criticize too much, but given it is hop-free and full of herbs and spices, based on my culinary experience I think this is really well put together.

Pairing : Given that it has plenty to offer flavour-wise without a hoppy character I would happily use this in lieu of my cooking red wine. Use it to braise/baste a good beef steak or roast, I think the flavour additions will be subtle but very nice. As a drink, most seafood would go great, blackened red snapper comes to mind immediately just because I think the caramelized blackened crust would add a nice counter to the sour without affecting the tanginess too much - and a side of fresh green beans with garlic, butter, and fresh cracked pepper would be a good side dish.

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Photo of gfunkw
2.58/5  rDev -28.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

I really wanted to like this beer. I saved it a fair long while and chose the right occasion to share with two buddies.

I also paired it with a ginger molasses cookie as I felt the herbal notes and advertised anise flavours would pair well. I might recommend something savoury or even black licorice if you want, or some lime-chili peanuts perhaps. But I digress.

A - poured from a bottle, nice rich dark coffee look to it with a bit of light brown foam head around the rim.

S - Faint slightly acidic and sweet aroma

T - Cold and refreshing at first with some good acidity, the lack of hops just proved too much to contend with for two out of three of us. While it started to go down smooth it was tough to drink it all up to finish the bottle. Reminded me of Jagermeister in a way but less sweet.

MF - a lot crisper and cleaner than I would have expected, which I felt improved the rather too strongly herbal (i.e. anise) flavour. There was a bit too much sourness to the aftertaste for my liking, so am wondering how adding some fruit notes or additions like cassis or cranberry could help, not sure.

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Photo of LampertLand
3.83/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Saltspring Island Ales 'Saturnalia Gruit' @ 5.0% , served from a 650 ml bottle purchased for $8

A-pour is a dark brown with a smallish tan head which is quickly dissapating leaving a very small lace ring along the stein

S-sweet smelling floral & malts

T-heather ale done dark

MF-low carbonation , medium body , sweet on the palate

Ov-hopefully this beer will be added to Butchart Gardens menu alongside Heatherdale Ale another interesting gruit beer , sweet and refreshing

prost LampertLand

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Saturnalia Gruit from Salt Spring Island Ales
Beer rating: 3.62 out of 5 with 6 ratings