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?

  • 1
    Have you tried looking up the Reverend James online to see if its hopped or not?
    – brewchez
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 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
    Commented Jul 29, 2011 at 11:15
  • @Poshpaws Call them. You'd be amazed how forthcoming commercial brewers will be. They're beer enthusiasts too, after all.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 8:55

8 Answers 8


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.


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.

  • Fair point Graham.
    – Poshpaws
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 16:10

Norwegian Farmhouse Ales mostly use Juniper as their anti-bacterial/bitter flavoring. They have been doing this for hundreds of years and well before hops were established as the go to bittering agent. You can read all about how Juniper is used at Larsblog

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You can either replace the hops with something else or leave them out completely.

Before hops became popular, people used various herbs (e.g., rosemary and sage). This was called a Gruit beer. Unfortunately people also used poisonous plants like nightshades, and that made the whole thing much less pleasant. If you stick to culinary herbs you'll get something that works great as a marinade or in a roast, but maybe not so great for drinking.

One beer without hops was the Broyhan. It's a beer from northern Germany, made from barley and wheat. I followed a recipe from German brau!magazin and ended up with a very wine-ish beer, sweet, medium alcohol, and sparkly.


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.


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

It was awful. I mean truly vile.


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).


Like many people, I don’t like bitter tastes. Don’t like detergent, paracetamol, hops, battery acid, etc. Malt, on the other hand, is delicious; its sweet, rich, aromatic and when brewed into barley wine is fantastic - just too strong. So what is it with brewers that they insist beer must be bitter? If not hops, then they have to put something else in to “bitter” it. My old Dad, when he was alive, brewed excellent beer and tried zero hop ales a few times, they were outstanding. Everyone who tried them agreed and wanted more. Neighbours would always ask when he was going to brew another batch. Brewers: Please, please, get it into your heads that there are many who would love an ale that hadn’t been spoiled with nasty bitter tastes. Consider this: Which sells more, dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

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