Beer Without Hops? Yes, It Exists.

Today’s beer drinkers take for granted that the ingredients in their pint will include hops. The rise of India pale ale, craft beer’s signature style, has moved hops even more into the spotlight. Breweries are making their beer with new varieties of hops, and some breweries have become known for their IBU-heavy products.

However, some brewers are bring back beer styles that aren’t brewed with hops. Centuries ago, hops simply weren’t available in some parts of the world; the climate wasn’t suitable to growing them, and the cost of importing them was prohibitive. James Sheehan, a homebrewer from England, introduces us to three varieties of unhopped beer.

The Vikings brewed spruce beer, which was found to ward off scurvy on long voyages, and the British Navy prescribed it as well to its seamen. Spruce beers were also brewed in America because hops were scarce. Benjamin Franklin, for one, brewed his own version, which was entirely molasses-based.

For millennia, Northern Europeans have brewed gruit beers, which used a variety of herbs along with honey and fruit. The ancient Scots are known for brewing their beer with heather, which imparts a flavor more like hops than spruce.

Perhaps the oddest unhopped beer of all is sahti, a style that originated in Finland so long ago that metal vessels hadn’t yet been introduced to the brewing process. The ancient Finns heated large rocks in a fire, then threw the blazing rocks into a barrel of mash water. The resulting beer had a roasted taste from caramelized malt, along with a gin-like taste from juniper leaves.

The Friday Mash (Man on the Moon Edition)

On this day in 1972, Apollo 17, crewed by Eugene Cernan, Ron Evans, and Harrison Schmitt, returned to Earth. The craft’s re-entry marked the end of America’s manned lunar program. Cernan currently holds the distinction of being the last man to walk on the Moon.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in England, where the publishers of Original Gravity, a beer-centric magazine, have put Issue #1 online, free of charge. Enjoy!

The founders of Surly Brewing Company—Omar Ansari, a first-generation American; and Todd Haug, a death-metal guitarist—have done well, both for themselves and Minnesota’s beer drinkers.

Belgian scientists have found a way to keep beer from over-foaming. They applied a magnetic field to a malt infused with hops extract to disperse its anti-foaming agent into tinier particles.

Archaeologists have concluded that Iceland’s Vikings were more interested in drinking and feasting than in pillaging. Unfortunately for them, the Little Ice Age became the ultimate party-pooper.

A pair of brothers have invented something that makes it easier to enjoy a beer while taking a shower. Their Sip Caddy is a portable cup holder that can be attached to the wall.

Lance Curran, the co-founder of Chicago’s Arcade Brewery, loves comic books so much that he had comic strips drawn on the labels of its Festus Rotgut black wheat ale.

Finally, a woman attending a Philadelphia 76ers game wound up with a lapful of beer after an errant pass knocked the cup out of her hand. The way the Sixers are playing this season, she–and every other fan–needs some beer to deaden the pain.

The Friday Mash (Robbie Burns Edition)

Today is the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns. It is the traditional day to honor him with a Burns supper, which typically includes haggis, Scotch whisky, and the recitation of Burns’ poetry, and closes with a chorus of Auld Lang Syne.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Rosemont, Illinois, where America’s fourth Hofbrauhaus had a soft opening in the city’s new entertainment district. The other HB locations are Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, and Newport, Kentucky.

The Canadian humor magazine Bite has created a zodiac-like infographic, “What Your Beer Style Says About You.” (Hat tip: Jay Brooks.)

Two cheers for the three-tier system. According to the New America Foundation’s Barry Lynn, distributors are protecting craft beer from the dominance of the nation’s brewing duopoly–at least for now.

Why is beer more likely to go skunky in clear bottles? It’s because light reacts with hop alpha acids to produce a compound similar to one found in a skunk’s defense spray.

On Tuesday Harpoon Brewing, the nation’s eighth-largest craft brewer, will open a $3.5 million beer hall in Boston. It’s located just blocks from Boston Beer Company’s Jamaica Plain facility.

If you haven’t been able to get limited-release beers,’s Jim Galligan offers tips from the pros. For starters, you should cultivate a relationship with a good beer store in your area.

Finally, Matt Austin, a grad student at Cardiff University, found some interesting parallels between the way Vikings drank in mead halls and the way today’s British college athletes drink.

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