Prior to about 500 years ago, a flavorful beer known as “Gruitbier” was the most common style of beer in the world. The word ‘Gruit’ referred to a combination of herbs, plants, and spices used by local brewers to craft a beer that was flavoured with the naturally occurring plants that grew around the brewer’s home. This meant that a traveler crossing many regions could sample the signature flavours and aromas local to each district, which were literally reflected in the beer the area had to offer. But around the year 1500, something changed. The flavoring agent we call ‘Hops’ became the universal flavoring agent for beer, and the uniquely flavoured, individualized Gruitbiers faded into memory.

They didn’t fade for everybody, however. This summer, in celebration of the 4th Annual Summer Solstice Festival being held at Wildflowers Farm on June 26th, St. Thomas Herbalist Jane Magri is partnering with Railway City Brewery to bring a local Gruitbier back, and this one bears the distinctive tastes and properties of local St. Thomas herbs. A medieval – inspired Gruitbier created from the unique combinations of plants, roots and spices that populate our region, brought to life in beer again for the second year of this distinctive partnership.

If you didn’t get a chance to sample Railway City’s ‘Summer Solstice Gruit’ last year, you’re in luck, because this flavourful, refreshing beer is back! The Summer Solstice Festival, held on June 26th at Wildflowers Farm from 3-7pm, is a grassroots, community supported family festival that features live bands, drumming workshops, yoga, local art and artisans. The Railway City Gruit will be featured at a licensed outdoor beer garden. It will also be available while supplies last at the Railway City store at 130 Edward Street.

This year’s Gruit features the bitter taste and healing properties of Yarrow – a plant used throughout history to treat a soldier’s wounds on the battlefield, and the spicy undertones of Juniper Berry. These strong tastes are softened by the mellow, aromatic notes of soothing Lavender, a combination which when put to use by the talented brew masters at Railway City has resulted in a light, refreshing brew that’s sourced and bottled right here in St. Thomas, Ontario.

How will lovers of traditional beer respond to a throwback Gruit that’s flavoured without the benefit of Hops? If last year’s sales performances are any indication, the Gruit sold out in record time, leaving those that hadn’t tried it out of luck while those that had the chance were clamoring for more!

So if you’re in the mood to try a uniquely local brew that resurrects the proud tradition of using herbs and spices from the place you live to flavor beer brewed where you live, don’t miss out! Get your Summer Solstice tickets in advance at and try some of Railway City’s Summer Solstice Gruit this year.


Jane Magri

Registered Herbalist, Certified Yoga and Ayurveda Instructor + Health Coach