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I just tried a beer called Reverend James and it tasted really weird. Full-bodied and slightly spicy but I could detect absolutely no hop characteristics in it at all.

Now, it could be that my palate isn't very sophisticated (it isn't), but could it have been boiled with no hops at all?

Has anyone brewed without hops (or any other "flavouring")? Does just fermented malt produce a drinkable beer?

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Have you tried looking up the Reverend James online to see if its hopped or not? – brewchez Jul 25 '11 at 23:44
I can't any information on the hops content. It comes from a Welsh brewery called Brains, and the recipe apparently dates back to 1885. Any more info. would be interesting. – Poshpaws Jul 29 '11 at 11:15
@Poshpaws Call them. You'd be amazed how forthcoming commercial brewers will be. They're beer enthusiasts too, after all. – Sneftel Jun 3 '15 at 8:55
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I've brewed a gruit using heather and other herbs instead of hops...not one of my favorites. You certainly can brew beer without hops, although when you put in the qualifier "drinkable" it becomes a subjective matter of opinion. For my palate, a beer without hops, whether gruit or just malt alone, is not pleasantly drinkable.

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A warning, just because you didn't detect any hop characteristics doesn't mean its un-hopped. Have you ever had a Bavarian Hefeweizen? Or a Berlinerweisse, or Lambic? These are beers that have absolutely no hop character, but do have very low levels of hops. Don't assume a beer with no hop character has "zero" hops.

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Fair point Graham. – Poshpaws Sep 9 '11 at 16:10

The purpose of hops is to offset the sweetness of the malt by adding a bittering element. Hops also act as a natural preservative, which the English used to their advantage when sending their ales to India (hence India Pale Ale or IPA).

A friend of mine recently brewed a raspberry beer without any hops, and it turned out surprisingly good. You can substitute other ingredients for hops, but YMMV.

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Beer has traditionally been bittered by mugwort before hops became widespread. I once tried a small batch with that and it wasn't bad, but the bitterness is different and easily unpleasant. Be sure to include lots of speciality grain and top-ferment for flavor if you want to try anything like that.

EDIT: unbittered beer tastes pretty bland, but there are similar tastes that are pretty good, notably russian квас (basically a fermented bread).

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Yes, yes I have made beer with no hops and all malt (and no other ingredients).

It was awful. I mean truly vile.

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