Hopless beer recipes?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-Known Member
Apr 19, 2005
Reaction score
Portland, Oregon (Beervana)
My father is severely allergic to hops and corn. Those are just a few of his many food allergies. He usually just sticks to wines. I would like to brew a special batch in the future that we can share together, without his face breaking out in purple spots and swelling up like a baloon!

My question is, are there any recipes out there for hopless beer? If so, has anybody tried any of these recipes? How was the taste? How well did they store and age? The corn part is an easy fix. I can prime with DME instead of corn sugar. I have read in a few places that most of the primitive beers did not contain hops. They contained other herbs, berries, barks, ect., for preserving and flavoring. But I cant seem to find any recipes. I know they are out there somewhere. Any help would be nice. Suggestions?
If I'm not mistaken, the reason that many British beer styles are called "bitters" is not because they are particularly bitter, but because they were actually brewed with hops while their predecessors weren't. Unfortunately, I'll bet the predecessors didn't taste particularly good.

If you've ever made a yeast starter and tasted the liquid from it, that's pretty much what you can expect from a beer with no hops.

Are you brewing extract or all grain?
I seem to remeber that some belgian wit beers use coriander for bittering? I know that some early beers used an herb called henbane for bittering, but they stopped using it since it has some strong effects.
Pick a beer style that is low on hops (scottish) and replace them with a spice or herb. I've had a scottish ale with heather that was quite good. Or just eliminate the hops.
I brew a lemon-rosemary blonde ale that has such a low hop presence that they wouldn't be missed.
Ed, if your willing try a partial mash using Bisquit Malt with your base DME. It is quite bitter when you use about 8 to 12 oz in 5 gallons. Then you could throw in some bitter orange peel. Then use a spice or herb to flavor.

Good luck
Dude, partial mash looks easy. soak, strain sparge! It doesn't look any harder then the specialty grains that I have been using in a cheesecloth sock. Im gonna give it a shot. Do you have a more detailed idea of what ingredients/recipe I should use though.
Actually, a partial mash is much more involved than soaking specialty grains in what is essentially an extract beer. In reality, a partial mash involves everything an all-grain brew does only with smaller volumes.

Namely, you need to mash and sparge properly (ie not use a cheesecloth sack). Good luck!
Another hopless beer possibility would be a hefe. Brewed with german yeast it would have lots of flavor and you wouldn't miss hops.
Or an american hefe with fruit of some kind.
Good grains for no hop brewing would be heavy flavored grains, a stout would be a good bet.

A light bodied stout with a few citrus notes, maybe some herbal notes. And a nice creamy head.. Perhaps an oatmeal orange rosmary stout, if such a thing is unheard of, then call me crazy, it sounds great to me.

However you dont want to mix heavy burnt toast flavors with orange and herb, you might want keep away from black patent, and use more chocolate roast and roasted barley.
I'm not much of a brewer. I actually hate beer because of the hops but I have found a few beers that are not made with hops that I actually like. There is a Scottish beer made with heather and there is a fruity Belgien (bad speller) beer that was great. I have a book called "The Homebrewer's Garden" that talks about other herbs that were used for brewing before hops.

Bittering herbs:
horehound, sage, dandelion, alecost, milk thistle, nettle, yarrow, gentian, clary sage, and betony.

Flavoring herbs:
juniper, spruce, rosemary, hyssop, borage, ginger, oregano, mints, bee balm (also known as burgamot or monarda), lemon balm (or melissa), sweet woodruff, majoram, elecampane, licorice and thyme.

Aromatic herbs:
rosemary, hyssop, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, bee balm, elder flowers, and many other herbs can be used to provide aroma to beer.

I read somewhere that pot marigold (aka) colundula was used for beer but I can't remember where I saw it or how it was used.

The book recomends how to brew without hops and has at least one recipe that is hopless.

Another book to consider but is pretty hard to read is "A Sip Through Time: A Collection Of Old Brewing Recipes" by Cindy Renfrow. It gives the period recipe but sometimes forgets to use modern terms to explain what the heck it means.

Another thing to consider for your father is trying cider recipes.

Those are on my list of things to try.

Doesn't Joy of Homebrewing have a yarrow-based beer recipe? I think its in the extract brews section.
Pre hops, they used to use Horehound. Sure is bitter. and available. aaand, you could find some horehound drops so your dad could try them to check for allergy (if they aren't made with corn syrup) OOr, brew a tea of whatever, ad to a beer, just to check for flavor?

I've looked for Horehound recipes but not found any. I sure like the candy, but I'm hoping to talk somebody else into trying a brew....I'd hate to waste my own AG effort and five gallons....maybe a 1 gallon extract batch ?
You know it might be a good idea to not brew up 5 gallones as well. 5 gallons is a lot of beer if you dont like it.
gruit ale from JanFeb '06 BYO

6 lbs pale ale lme
1 lb flaked barley
2.5 lbs dark munich malt
0.5 lb roasted barley
1 lb dark wheat malt
1/2 oz dried lavender
2 oz woodruff
1/2 oz juniper berries
1/2 oz rosemary
1 pkg ale yeast (English or German wheat beer)
I have brewed malt extract without hops. I found it crisp, tangy and refreshing. It reminded me of home brewed cider, of course without the apple flavour.
It's cheap and easy (like me); why not try it?