Brew experiments

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Well-Known Member
Mar 30, 2006
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Scranton PA
Alright kids having a few brews under my belt and being one to leap into the abyss without much more than a flashlight I am wondering if anyone has experimented with dare I say it on this forum - hopless beer? Oh what did he just say

Seriously - my first hefe was a bit under hopped and the responses ranged from wow to this is "amazingly good" (he was working in the hot sun all afternoon and drank the half liter in about a minute flat. Anyway - I want to experiment with using little if any bittering hops and a handful for flavor and a pinch for aroma. I would also like to experiment with other sources of bitter or not nec. bitter, but contrast to sweet. Im not so much interested in spicy beer unless I could get close to PIMS #7 or that old 7UP GOLD flavor, but orange and lemon zest sound interesting, but I don't know if they are nec. bitter. Vanilla might be cool, any suggestions would be great. If not I may just trudge along the unknown path. (ps is malt liqour defined only by its gravity alc % or some other factor?)

I will continue to cyclically brew traditional ales on my current yeast cakes, but I love a good experiment. Comments? :ban: lovers


Well-Known Member
Jul 4, 2005
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Poo-Poo Land

All Experts said:
Expert: Cullen Davis
Date: 9/30/2002
Subject: Are hops necessary?


I am hoping to start brewing regularly, and more seriously, after a few experiences that I have had with beer kits. I would like to "know" a recipe really well by paying as much attention to detail as possible. This means starting from as simple a recipe as possible and gradually changing things one by one over time to get a taste I like. My question is this: I plan on starting with an ale. If I use an unhopped malt extract, what will the outcome be if I don't add hops at any other stage during the brewing process? Will a hopless beer be drinkable? What kind of taste would I get out of it?

Hope you can help, and thanks much for your time!



The short answer is hops are not neccessary in brewing. But hops are there for a variety of reasons, the main ones being flavor, aroma, bitterness and preservative qualities. Also, tradition plays a part as hops are the most widely used and therefore most universally traditional and most thoroughly studied brewing herb. Historically, many other herbs have been used to add flavor, bitterness, aroma and other characteristics to beer. Some herbs that have been used in the past (and a little here and there nowadays) are Yarrow, Heather, Wormwood (very bitter), roses (petals and rose hips), Alecost (another very bitter herb) and Marsh Rosemary just to name a few. Back before hops became prevalent in brewing (they were actually illegal in some areas for a while) most beers were rich, dark, malty, tangy and estery. The herbs were often there to offset off-flavors and aromas arising from the natural ferments that were used.

In your own homebrewing, it is definitely a good idea to tweak recipes and try different things and different proportions and diferent methods so that you can really be sure of what the various ingredients and processes do to the finished product. Experience pays, to be sure. To that end, you can certainly make hopless beer. The result will be a bit like Mild Ale or Scottish Ale in that it will be mostly malty in flavor, with the more subtle yeast character showing through, unhidden by the hops. If you make this beer, it will only have the preservative qualities of the alcohol and the cleanliness of your system, so it may not have as long a shelf-life as your other beers. You might also just add a very small amount of hops and later in the boil so that you'll still get some preservative effect but very little bitterness, flavor or aroma.

The brewing world is big and full of many ingredients and methods. You might go your entire life wthout trying them all, but in my opinion, the best way to explore this world is to experiment your way through it.

Good luck and happy brewing!