I have a friend that is allergic to hops and can not drink our beer (or just about any others for that matter). What alternatives do I have if I want to make a beer for him? What could I substitute for bittering? What would my options be for aroma and flavoring hop alternatives? If I could even just get a bittering component into the beer, I would have

  • The white sage sounds really good. I have some juniper berries for some flavor, but when and how much?
    – user13636
    May 3, 2016 at 8:07

7 Answers 7


I'd recommend the book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. Don't let the name put you off, it's packed with lots of useful historical information on brewing before the advent of hop usage. The Homebrewer's Garden is also a good book on this subject, and a bit more succinct.

Yarrow is good for bittering, and grows wild throughout the US. It can be more of an 'upper' compared to hops, which have a sedative effect.

Artemesia vulgaris, aka mugwort, is a good bittering option and was used extensively before hops gained prominence.

Artemesia absinthia, aka wormwood, the signature ingredient in absinthe, is powerfully bitter, and somewhat controversial as an ingredient. I once made a tea out of it to test it's bitterness ,and... goddamn. Bitter, bitter stuff. Use caution with this one, since it contains a supposed neurotoxin, thujone, which is also cited for the magic 'green fairy' effect of absinthe.

For an aroma addition, there are lots of options. Moonlight brewing makes an interesting spruce tip beer. Juniper berries can also be used. You could do a wit-like beer with coriander, orange peel and pinch of chamomile for aroma additions. Maybe focus on yeast estery styles, such as saison, belgians, hefeweizen, etc. that don't call for a strong hop flavor and aroma addition.

Many of these brewing herbs can be bought from Seven Bridges online. The Yelp listing says they have closed (assuming this was the brewing supply store in Santa Cruz, CA.)

  • 1
    I used dry heather to dry-hop my wee-heavy... It turned out to be pretty nice and well balanced.
    – Trigger
    May 3, 2016 at 19:02

You'll want to take a look at brewing Gruit, a style of beer brewed with herbs in place of hops.

Personally I haven't had any practical experience brewing a Gruit but this site has a few recipes you could use as a starting point, good luck!


I made a beer a while back in which I substituted tea for hops. Tea seems to have similar properties in that if you boil for a long time, you'll get bitterness, and less time will give you flavor and aroma.

The result was interesting (I used green tea and a bud light clone recipe because I wanted to make sure I tasted the tea). In hindsight, the tea flavor was fairly robust and could have stood up to a stronger beer.

  • That sounds really interesting. Do you have any other tips? How much tea did you use for what size batch?
    – Jarrod
    Nov 15, 2010 at 18:46
  • 2
    I used perhaps 25 tea bags in a 5 gallon batch, and I think it was too much. A heavier beer or less tea would have produced a better result.
    – G__
    Nov 15, 2010 at 23:21

I've heard of heather being used, though never used it myself.


Heather has been used in a variety of beers; even one without any hops at all in the Iron Brewer contest in Toronto 2014. It really is interesting and the amount of heather needs to be tuned-in due to its intense taste. A combination of hops and heather tasted - as far as I could say - not as good, or let me say more unexpected. Heather might serve as an alternative, I think.

  • It worked well with my malty wee-heavy. The final beer turned to bee sweet and bitter.
    – Trigger
    May 3, 2016 at 19:04

white sage to me is the best. Ihave used it as an addative about 50-50


Many years ago I read that hops and cannabis were related. In fact the suggestion was to graft hops onto cannabis roots in order to grow a plant that looked like hops but that contained THC. I never tried it; don't know if it would work or even if they are related in fact. But if so, perhaps cannabis could replace hops in brewing. Again, NO IDEA if this will work.
Use at Your Own Risk. Your mileage may vary. Batteries not included.

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