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dubbel dutch 03-11-2008 04:26 PM

A Hop Alternative
As we all probably agree there is no substitute for hops in beer. But since hops are so expensive right now are there any kinds of herbs brewers like you are using to impart bitterness or flowery-hop flavor to your poorman's hopless brew?

I'm do not intend for this to be another thread discussing the shortage of hops nor arguing grounds for the opinion that only hops ought to be used if you want your beer to taste best.

I've heard of Alfalfa pellets, wormwood, heather, ti leaves, oak leaves, nettles, spruce tips "parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme" being used for beer flavor.

To quote Ted Danyluk, "herbs such as alecost, betony, dandelion, horehound, milk thistle, nettle, sage and yarrow can be used" as well. A link to his post here.

I'm interested in trying some unique recipes, or is it a vain and hopless pursuit?

DarthCaitSith 03-11-2008 05:07 PM

Try searching for the word Gruit. Back hops became the defacto bittering agent for beer there were herbs mixes called gruit used to make the beer. The problem is that these mixes were closely garded secrets and never written down.

So most gruit recipes you see are guesses from what was available at the time.

So likely ingredients include almost any spices or herbs found in Europe in the middle ages. I've heard that a good mix is Marsh rosemary, Sweet Gale and yarrow.

You can find sweet gale and yarrow at most herb shops on the net, but marsh rosemary is pretty much impossible to find (and it tastes nothing like regular rosemary, they have a similar look to the leaves. hence the name. A good substitute might be Labrador tea.

But don't insist on anything specific, other herbs probably included were mugwort, alewort, dandelion, as well as what you listed and many more.

Also in scotland ale made with heather tips was very popular. Though the exact recipe is lost in time as well.

BierMuncher 03-11-2008 05:09 PM

I've heard spruce tips are good if you like chinook hops.

Mirilis 03-11-2008 05:13 PM

Cocoa baking powder can also help, in the right recipe

Homercidal 03-11-2008 05:22 PM

Hmmmm... Nettles was NOT my favorite plant while looking for red worms on the lowlands near the river. Easy to spot, and hard to avoid, those things would cause the worst kind of itchy/burny sensation I've ever encountered. It would only last a few minutes, but I alway sgot hit while worming.

Now I know the plant is safe after boiling, and is sometimes used to make teas and whatnot. It's not hard to find if you know where to look. How would you process it though?

dubbel dutch 03-11-2008 05:45 PM


Originally Posted by Homercidal
Now I know the plant is safe after boiling, and is sometimes used to make teas and whatnot. It's not hard to find if you know where to look. How would you process it though?

Exactly right, they're edible when prepared properly. Some suggest taking the top four inches off of the smaller nettles (less bitter?), boiling them for some time, and then straining (this will deactivate the stinging portion). Though I have never tried this... some have http://www.selfsufficientish.com/nettlebeer.htm

WOP31 03-11-2008 05:48 PM

Gruit Ale

All sorts of info about hopless beer.

dubbel dutch 03-18-2008 03:18 PM

There is some, albeit 'meh', decent information here as well...

Fresh Hops suggests that "now is the brewers opportunity to brew with many of the other fine herbs that can and do flavor beer". They recommended the site above.

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