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I'm thinking about the next brew, and want to kick it up a notch. I have heard of beers that don't use hops. I don't know where to start in my research, so I apologize for the broad question, but what kind of beers are there that don't use hops?

If you have brewed any of these styles, do you recommend me to try them (or recommend I NOT try them)?

Thanks.

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Wouldn't not using hops be kicking it back a notch? In other words, going to a time before there were hops in beer. J/K –  brewchez Oct 9 '10 at 11:49
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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

http://gruitale.com/ has got a few recipes and lots of info about beers spiced with things other than hops.

I recently brewed up one of their Sage Ale recipes, it's just about done fermenting and it's pretty good, really interesting flavor since sage isn't especially bitter.

The discovery world museum near my house has got an archaeologist brewer that runs a brewing seminar called Ale Through the Ages where they look at various parts of the world and history and brew some beer based on the archaeological evidence about their alcoholic endeavors. We recently brewed a beer based on findings in Henan, China, spiced with wormwood, and chrysanthemums. Anyway the guy who runs it has a blog at http://distantmirror.wordpress.com/ where he posts the recipes and info about past beer he's made for the series. here's one with no hops but a ton of other stuff: http://distantmirror.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/brewing-a-medieval-mumm-ale/

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I had a taste of the Medieval Mumm Ale tonight it was pretty awesome but pretty weird. There was a hint of a worchestershire sauce flavor along with a sourness that really appealed to me. It might not be to everyone's taste but I really enjoyed it. –  Mattress Oct 21 '10 at 1:41
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Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia seem to be the earliest recorded beer makers. They used only barley, which was essentially floor malted. I've seen a modern-day recipe using only malted barley grain and water, with the recommendation to add beer yeast. While yeast isn't required, the wild fermentation may vary by area.

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I haven't found corroboration for this yet, but something to think about from "The Natural Testosterone Plan" by Stephen Harrod Buhner:

Hops is best known for its use in beer. The majority of physicians and men overlook its potent chemicals and do not realize that beer itself can significantly alter the male androgen levels. German beer makers noticed long ago that the young women who picked hops in the fields commonly experienced early menstrual periods. Eventually, researchers discovered the reason – hops is perhaps one of the most powerfully estrogenic plants on Earth. Just 100 grams of hops (about 3.5 ounces) contains anywhere from thirty thousand to three hundred thousand IUs of estrogen, depending on the type of hops. Most of it is the very potent estrogen estradiol. Estradiol, as it is taken into the male body, causes a direct lowering of testosterone levels in the testes and an increase in SHBG levels, which then binds up even more free testosterone in the bloodstream. The estradiol in hops has also been found to directly interfere with the ability of the testes Leydig cells to produce testosterone. The presence of this highly estrogenic substance in beer is not an accident.

Prior to the German Beer Purity Act of 1516, beer almost never contained hops. In fact, more than one hundred different plants were used in brewing beer for at least ten thousand years prior to the introduction of hops in the middle ages. For the last thousand years of that period, the most dominant form of “beer” was called gruit, which contained a mixture of yarrow, bog myrtle, and marsh rosemary. These herbs, especially in beer, are sexually and mentally stimulating. (It is rare to become sleepy when drinking un-hopped beers.) The Catholic Church had a monopoly on the production of gruit, but competing merchants and the Protestants worked together to break their monopoly and force the removal of all sexually stimulating herbs from beer. They replaced them with an herb that puts the drinker to sleep and dulls sexual drive in the male. The legislative arguments of the day all hinged on the issue of the stimulating effects of other herbs that were used in beer. A pilsner, for example, was originally a henbane beer (pilsen means “henbane”), which is an incredibly strong, psychoactive beer, used earlier in history by German berserkers before battle. The German Beer Purity Act was, in effect, the first drug control law ever enacted.

Beer, so highly touted as sexy in television commercials, in actuality can powerfully inhibit sexual strength in men. There is a well known condition in England – Brewer’s Droop – that occurs from middle-aged brewers’ extensive handling of hops plants. The plant chemistries readily transmit through the men’s skin just as they did in the young women in the fields. Very few physicians have looked at any correlation between beer drinking and androgen levels or erectile dysfunction problems in their patients. (How many men on Viagra are heavy beer drinkers?) However, the physician Eugene Shippen in The Testosterone Syndrome comments that one of his patients undergoing pharmaceutical testosterone replacement therapy, showed no response to the testosterone until he reduced his beer intake to one or two beers a night from six to seven. Hops is extremely potent and its consumption should be limited if not completely excluded during all androgen replacement therapy. These effects can be exacerbated if the beers you buy also contain licorice (see Licorice section at beginning of chapter), a fact that will not be noted the beer label.

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Cambridge Brewing Company had a really nice gruit with heather and many other herbs in it that I can't remember. I talked to the head brewmaster about it (we were there for a beer dinner) and he told me about his experimentation. All I can say is that getting one to come out really well takes a lot of trial and error. So I'd say skip it, only because you gave me the option in your question to say NO.

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I think that in order to be considered beer, it has to have hops in it. Gruit is an example where the bittering comes from something besides hops. There are a whole bunch of things like this I think. I'll try to find more examples.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruit

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Is "Gruit" a sort-of catch-all term for non-hopped beers? –  Pulsehead Oct 11 '10 at 12:55
    
I don't think so. There's a list at my homebrew shop of "beer by any other name", and there's about 20-25 different types of non-beer beer. –  hookedonwinter Oct 11 '10 at 15:51
    
I always thought that gruit was the name given to "beer" bittered with botanicals/herbs. –  brewchez Oct 12 '10 at 12:27
    
@PJ: If you can remember any of those other 20-25 varieties of non-beer beer, I'd love to see that edited into your response. –  Pulsehead Oct 12 '10 at 13:29
    
@brewchez ya agreed. @pulsehead I'll be at the shop this week at some point. I'll grab a picture of the poster then. –  hookedonwinter Oct 12 '10 at 14:05
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