How To Make Beer Without Hops
Any beer drinker loves a beer or two to finish off another working week. Whether it is pale ales, traditional ales or hoppy beers, or craft beers, we love a glass and a chat with friends and family.
However, most beers are made from fresh hops and some of us love the hop flavors but can’t drink it. Whether it’s because of food sensitivity or flavor, some people are simply averse to hops. But should this mean that they don’t get to experience the fizzy goodness of a cold beer? Of course not!
Thankfully, there’s a way of brewing beer that doesn’t require hops and the technique has been around for centuries. Gruit is a drink from the Middle Ages and is almost exactly like beer, but instead of hops bittering herbs and other botanicals are used to create the fermented drink.
Best of all, since you are using herbs to make the drink, you can get added benefits from the herbs as well, giving you a drink that can be healthy, psychoactive or energizing as well as inebriating. Despite being wonderful, beer purity laws in the 1500s meant an extinction of gruit's prevalence in the brewing process and the sketchy keeping of recipes of the times meant that their resurgence was minimal.
However, with new modern day technology, a rise in the craft brewing industry and the few discovered ancient recipes,
The list of potential ingredients is quite long. Yarrow, bog myrtle and wild rosemary were commonly used flavoring agents in the Middle Ages. Additionally, wormwood, sage lavender, hyssop, fennel seed, woodruff, juniper berries, heather, mugwort, ground ivy, mint, nettle, and lemon balm are also mentioned frequently and would suffice in making authentic gruit.
Some others lesser known and lesser used herbs include Labrador tea, St. John’s wort, and tart lemon grass. More wintery flavors like ginger, rosemary, clove, spruce, caraway seed, anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, licorice, hops, basil, oregano, vanilla, bay leaf, borage, coriander, various peppercorns, and tarragon could also be used.
Light and summery aromatics including dandelion, goldenrod, rose hips, chamomile, nasturtium, thyme, citrus rind, herbal and true teas, honeysuckle, elderberry and elderberry flowers could also flavor gruit. There are many other medicinal wild and common plants that can be used.
Brewing the Beer:
You brew the beer as you normally would with any homebrew but, instead of hops, you add your gruit botanicals. However, the nature of the herbs may mean that they will have to be prepared differently, in both boiling and preparation. This will affect how they flavor or enhance your brew.
You can add them at the beginning for flavoring purposes or at the end to prevent off putting flavors or loss of intensity of the flavoring agent.So, how one typically makes beer goes as follows (according to the fabulous Homebrewers Association):
2) Make sure that all your equipment is squeaky clean! Bacteria can crete off flavors and spoil your beer.
3) Bring a gallon of water to a boil in a large pot and, after removing the boiling pot from the heat, stir in your malt extract (or if following an all grain recipe, your ground malt). If using an extract, ensure that none of the solutions has collected on the bottom by stirring in thoroughly. Once dissolved, return the mixture to a boil.
4) In regular beer brewing, this is where you would add your hops and other flavoring additives! For your hop-free beer, this is where you add your gruit botanical boil instead. Make sure to read up on each of your flavoring ingredients. Some herbs, while they may taste good in moderation, can become bitter or foul tasting with excessive heating or boiling.
5) Boil for half an hour and you have created wort. With fermentation, this liquid will become your “hopless” beer.
6) Allow your hot wort to partially cool. While you do this, you can fill your (clean), 5-gallon fermentation vessel halfway with cold water. Add your hot wort to the fermentation vessel.
7) Fill up the rest of the fermentation jar with cold water and allow the solution to cool completely, to at least 70 – 75°F (21 – 24°C). Remember that yeast is alive and dropping it into boiling hot liquid will kill it. Once cool, you can add in the yeast package that came with your kit to the jar.
8) Carefully seal your container for fermentation. You may need to provide an airlock to allow excess carbonation to escape. Give your vessel a good mix, not only to disperse the yeast but also to give it some oxygen.
9) In the next few weeks, fermentation will occur. This essentially means the yeast is eating the sugars (which come from the malt extract) and, in turn, producing both carbonation and alcohol. Pick a place to store the container that is away from direct sunlight and has a stable temperature as fluctuations in temperature can cause off flavors.
10) In the first week, you will likely be able to observe some bubbling; this is a sign of fermentation.
11) After 3-4 weeks in the fermenter, your beer is ready to be packaged. Keep in mind that the yeast has now consumed most of the sugar from your beer. Some people choose to ferment further in the bottle for extra carbonation in a process called bottle fermentation. If you wish to do this, you can create a diluted sugar mix to add to your beer so that it continues to produce C02 in the bottle.
12) Transfer your beer into a bottling bucket (any bucket large enough to hold your solution will do). Using food-grade tubing, fill your sanitized bottles all the way up to the neck.
13) Cap the bottles and allow an extra 2-3 weeks for bottle conditioning to take place.
With this newfound knowledge on how to make hopless beer, you can create start your own batch today. However, keep in mind that the hop craze was born from the necessity of hops as a preservative.
With no preservatives and no added hops, your beer may spoil before you are accustomed to so ensure proper storage accordingly. Grab all the necessary ingredients and equipment you need and go to town. You’ll never want to buy beer from the store again!