As I experiment further with weird styles of beer and search for the boundaries of what can be considered beer I’ve become very interested in beers that don’t use hops. Mostly this is derived from my own personal dislike of the taste of hops in general, I do not care for IPAs or even PAs for the most part. So after doing some research on the internet I came across the Gruit Ale website. Gruit is what beer was before the widespread use of hops. Gruits are spiced and bittered with a wide variety of herbs (sometimes including hops).
On the Gruit Ale site I found a few recipes for brewing Sage Ale. I used the first recipe (a modern recipe) and slightly modified it during my brewing process:
- 4 gallons water (for the boil)
- 4 pounds Light DME
- 4 pounds Brown Sugar
- 4 ounces culinary sage from my garden
- 1 ounce of licorice root (from Northern Brewer)
- 1 packet of Fermentis Safbrew WB-06 Wheat Yeast
I brought the water to a boil and added the licorice and 2oz of the sage and boiled for 30 minutes. I then added the DME and brown sugar and boiled for another 30 minutes.
Then I cooled the wort added the other 2oz of sage. I had about 3.5 gallons of beer, I checked the gravity, it was 1.110! At this point I decided to add water to push it to a 5 gallon batch. This lowered the SG to 1.072 still pretty high but not insane (for beer) this gravity will yield a brew of around 8% ABV.
I pitched the yeast and fermented it in my cool basement it actually took quite a while for this to finish fermenting, maybe around a month or so.
I mixed up the conventional amount of priming sugar for bottling though I think either by this point my house was just too cold or the yeast was suffering from alcohol poisoning (probably both) as I didn’t get too much carbonation from my bottle conditioning. There is some and the beer doesn’t seem to suffer for the low amount of carbonation.
Notes on some changes to the Gruit Ale recipe: You’ll notice I used one less ounce of licorice, that’s because like an idiot I didn’t bring the recipe with me to the store and didn’t realize it called for 2 oz, oh well. The next time I brew this I’ll be using 2 oz. Also the use of the wheat yeast was slightly unintentional as I thought I had a packet of US-05 but I did not. I’m sure by now you can tell my brewing process is highly sophisticated and well organized. I’m actually pleased with the results from using the wheat yeast and will use it for future batches, the fruity esters imparted by the yeast work well with this already weird beer.