Heather Ale and Other Hop-Free Beers

Grains, malts, hops, yeast, water and other ingredients used to brew. Recipe reviews and suggestions.

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Heather Ale and Other Hop-Free Beers

Postby BillyBock » Sun Apr 13, 2003 6:16 am

Does anyone out there have any experience with making Heather Ale (Fraoch) or other hop-free beers? I'm interested in making a test batch for a friend who is allergic to hops (just hops not gluten) but otherwise would enjoy beer if she didn't have to take anti-allergy meds.

v/r
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No Experience, but...

Postby dartedplus » Sun Apr 13, 2003 6:53 pm

I havent tried it, but you can check out the summer 2001 issue of BYO,or you can get a book that is mentioned in that article called "The Homebrewers Garden" (Storey Books, 1998)
Other than that I cant be of much help.

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No, but

Postby fitz » Mon Apr 14, 2003 4:18 am

No, but I would like to know if you find something. My wife likes beer, but doesn't like the smell of it. I know, but I still love her anyway. I thought about doing one with tanic acid, or make one with the addition of tea, but I figured that would kill the head. Anyway, lets see if Eric has any tips for us.
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Hopless Dancer

Postby Stretch » Mon Apr 14, 2003 9:54 pm

I have only been brewing for 3 1/2 years, but three of my 38 batches have been hopless. Two of my co-workers are alergic to hops (both grew up in homes surounded by hop fields) but like beer, so I offered to make some herbal ale on their behalf. The first one was grassy tasting and too bitter, but the last two have been well received, even by my non-alergic friends. As a side note, the strong herbal ale that was not the best for drinking became my wife's favorite for cooking. My only advice is to go easy. Four onces of heather and an equal amount of your favorite herb tea should provide ample flavor for a five-gallon batch. And, though I don't like to stereotype, those folks that I know who are alergic to hops prefer the lighter brews, such a kolsch or pale ale. 4-5 pounds extra-light DME, a couple pounds honey, 1/4 pound crystal 40, and an appropriate yeast should do the trick. I'm no expert after only three batches, but it works for me and mine. Good luck!
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Herbs and Head

Postby fitz » Tue Apr 15, 2003 4:37 am

How does the herbs and herbal teas affect head retention? Most commercial beer drinkers wouldn't have a clue what a head on a beer is, but I can't be happy without a little head. I mean on my beer that is.
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Herbals In Beer...

Postby Mesa Maltworks » Tue Apr 15, 2003 4:51 pm

I have enjoyed many a non-hopped beer that used various agents to stand in for hops and not only for bitterness. I'll get into some of my experiences later, but here are the two best resources on the topic:

1) Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation. By Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Description: You've probably never thought of beer as having healing and healthful properties before. Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers explores the mystery, folklore, and healing power of ancient fermentation. This unique book includes 120 recipes for ancient and indigenous beers and meads from 31 countries spanning six continents, and the most complete evaluation of honey ever published.

Comment: I attended a presentation put on by Mr. Buhner at the 1998 Craftbrewers Conference and was most impressed. Other than the knowledge gain, unfortunately, I also learned how jaded craftbrewers can be. I'd say 70% of the attendees had a very closed mind... partially to the blindness caused by "Reinheits. Disease".

2)Special Ingredients and Indigenous Beer, Zymurgy Special Issue 1994.

Description: This issue features 76 recipes of indigenous beers from around the world (Scotland, Finland, Lithuania, Egypt, Africa and Mexico just to name a few), as well as exotic herb and spice beers, fruit and vegtable brews and information on various grains.

Both of these publications can be ordered by your local homebrew retailer (PLEASE TRY THEM FIRST !!! THEY NEED YOUR SUPPORT) or by ordering through the AOB website https://www.store.beertown.org/shopdisp ... +Magazines

Herbal beers can be the most interesting quaff... and some even have potentially significant health benefits.

Since the following topics always seems to come up in homebrew club meetings/circles when discussing this topic eventually, I'll quickly address them:

Topic 1: Yes, some herbs have a unique synergy with alcohol that lead to "enhanced" enjoyment. Among these are yarrow, wormwood, jimson weed, Laborador Tea... and many others.

Topic 2: For those into the mean green, NO, it can't be extracted through boiling !!!

As far as bittering agents, my favorites are:

1) Mugwort: An herb that is wild and grows everywhere in most of the US. Not only is it a potent bittering agent, but it has a cool flavor as well. It is really good in porters and browns. It has a unique synergy when used with rye malt.

2) Nettle: Yep... that heart shaped leafed plant that grown along riverbanks and causes great pain if brushed against. It has miniature hairlike spines on the underside of the leaves that contain a massively astringent compound that causes dramatic skin irritation. It is this compound that can be solubilized in beer to provide bittering, but is not a flavorative. It takes VERY little ! I know of no commercial source for this plant, but in the case of both the mugwort and the nettle, I have a friend that grows these specifically for brewing. He may sell some to you if you can't find it in your are.

As far as flavoring herbs, some of my top favorites:

1) Dandilion Crowns: Especially in honey ales. If the stem is included, a small bitterness is extracted, but tends toward grassy flavors. Can be bought commercially, but are expensive. In most areas it is the first wave of the season for this twice occuring plant. Find somewhere that has not been sprayed and pick them. This task is best achieved with a small army of people ! You'll need about 4# of DRY flower heads minimum.

2) Chamonile: Especially in wheat and honey brews, is killer in heavier hefes.

3) Mugwort, already discussed.

4) Lemongrass, supplies a mild citrus note. Overuse can lead to "grassiness".

5) Ginger: Can be subtle or spicy hot. Really cool in Marzens as there is a pleasant synergy with Munich and Vienna malts.

As far as hed killing, my experience has been that the use of most herbs either don't effect or enhance head formation. The agents to be cautions with are anything with a high oil or/and fat content... mostly seeds: coffee, nuts, corriander, cumin, nutmeg, mace...etc...

Thats a few of the things I've used. I could go on, but it would be better to obtain the two books I listed.

Eric
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Experiment

Postby Stretch » Tue Apr 15, 2003 8:50 pm

I never noticed any variance in head retention, but it is not something to which I pay attention so I conducted an experiment. I had a couple bottles of the last two batches on hand, so I poured one of each to see. The head on the first was typical of my other ales, but the head on the second was barely present. If I had to choose between a hopless ale with a weak head or a hopped one that made my eyes and throat swell shut...
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Thanks Eric

Postby fitz » Wed Apr 16, 2003 4:07 am

Thanks Eric. I knew we could count on you. I am pretty open minded inspite of some of my pro Reinist statements. My biggest beefs are with using too much of anything. I even shy away from some IPAs because they over did the hops a little. I would like to try some herbal type beers. If nothing else, to say I tried them. I have a edible wild plant book(the plants are edible, not the book) anyway i though about trying some adjuncts from there(cattail roots,etc.) Some of these things are supposed to contain high amounts of starches, as well as healing or vitamin properties. Think it would be kind of cool to pull out a herbal beer, and spring it on an unsuspecting friend to see if their expression. " you like that beer? I made it with cattail roots, dandelions, and chickory."
It would be a pretty good conversation piece.
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Cattails... Hmmm...

Postby Mesa Maltworks » Fri Apr 18, 2003 6:38 pm

Funny you mentioned cattails... not actual an herb topic, but interesting none the less.

Cattail heads are basically a big, furry, starch ball ! If you catch them early in the season, just when they turn gray-brown, you can mash them !!! They take a bit of time to saccrify and you have to do so in the presence of malt (like most starch adjuncts) but they will convert. I made a Wheattail Ale with orange blossom honey, sweet gale and corriander that rocked! Give it a whirl... peel the brown stuff off and chop them up and add them to a malt/wheat grist. Also, if you toast them, they produce a mildly nutty flavor.

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It's all I brew!

Postby EmeticAle » Tue Oct 14, 2003 1:17 am

All I make it herbal beers. I mostly make gruit and wormwood ales. I have several recipes on this site. Search for Wormwood Defiance Pale Ale, Dugan and LizDefiance's Wheat Gruit Beer, and wormwood hefewiezen.
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