Talk of comic books and beer consumed the evening as Aslan Brewing Company and the Bellingham Beer Lab joined forces Thursday, July 22, to celebrate the release of “I Am Gruit,” an unhopped herbed ale that takes a unique approach to the Bellingham beer scene.
The Bellingham Beer Lab is a nonprofit organization that gives homebrewers a platform to launch their individual beer brands by giving them a space to brew and debut their products. This opportunity allows brewers to donate proceeds from pint sales to the local charitable organizations of their choice.
Andrew Beer, the warehouse manager for Aslan and board member of the Bellingham Beer Lab was the man behind the curtain of this event — he designed the beer and created the recipe that debuted only after its third time in the making.
With the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic stamp of approval, “I Am Gruit” features a combination of herbs and spices like lemon peel, pink peppercorn and rosemary among other active ingredients to create an ale that can’t exactly be considered a beer.
“It’s technically not a beer, which is what makes it special on account of the fact that there are no hops used in the process and beer requires, for legal distinction: grain, hops, yeast and water,” Beer said.. “So to supplement where the hops would be, we used herbs and spices which are historically called gruit and we wanted to make something similar in flavor and aroma to something used with hops.”
The nontraditional recipe presented a fruity and spicy profile that left an impression.
“The gruit is fantastic, it’s unlike any beer I’ve had before,” The Comics Place Manager Jeffrey Figley said.
The name of the beer, “I Am Gruit” is a play on words referring to the recipe and a character from the Marvel Comics, Guardians of the Galaxy. The character Groot is an extraterrestrial tree giant whose larynx is hardened and whenever he speaks humans misinterpret him as repeating his name, “I am Groot.”
The reference to the comic seemed to come naturally, as did the collaboration with The Comics Place and Make.Shift Art Space.
Make.Shift Art Space is a nonprofit that has been active in the Bellingham community for nearly a decade. This organization is a creative hub where people of all ages can gather to create innovative, alternative art and music in a safe, inclusive space.
“We’ve given hundreds of people an accessible art experience, they’ve been able to see bands, have their band perform; it’s kind of a safe space for people to start out and experience music and art,” Make.Shift Executive Director Tyson Ballew said.
Beer, who is also a member of the Make.Shift community jumped at the opportunity to use his board position at BBL to give back to Make.Shift Art Space. This event was Beer’s way of collaborating his creation of “I Am Gruit,” with his love for comics and the arts.
“We thought it was a really good way to collaborate the name [Aslan and BBL], build some community by donating proceeds to Make.Shift Art Space and also bring in The Comics Place; a community build up was the whole reason we did it [the event],” Beer said.
The beer release party featured local artists who created comic-related pieces for the live-art auction and comic vendor tables; for the party-goers, costumes were highly encouraged.
Megan Lee, 27, who works for Aslan was in attendance to support the new beer. Lee was among those who engaged in cosplay — her silk blue dress, white stockings and double-bun hairstyle completed her interpretation of Chun Li from the original Street Fighter video game.
“It’s community culture,” Lee said. “We have a brewer that wants to connect the comic book community with the beer community which doesn’t necessarily always mix, so it’s kinda fun — it’s the melding of different groups of people and creating a space for them to come.”