Mother Earth Living

Fresh Clips: Browse Herbal Beers

By Lauren Holt
June/July 2011
Add to My MSN

Modern Herbal Beers: Lucky U IPA by Breckenridge Brewery (with seven hops varieties); Trippel by New Belgium Brewing (with coriander); ZŌN Belgian-Style Witbier by Boulevard Brewing Co. (with coriander); Mothership Wit by New Belgium Brewing (with organic coriander and bitter orange peel); Two Jokers Double-Wit by Boulevard Brewing Co. (with coriander, lavender, peppercorns and cardamom); Somersault by New Belgium Brewing (with ginger). Not pictured: Fraoch by Williams Bros Brewing Co. (with heather).

Content Tools

Related Content

Drink Beer to (Possibly) Prevent Osteoporosis

Modern research suggests that beer, considered medicinal in many ancient cultures, may have some hea...

Green Summer: Organic Beer

Natural Home editorial intern Susan Melgren shares a variety of organic beers and tips on how to gre...

Herbal Beers: Cheers to Fresh Flavor

Beer brewed with herbs is a tasty alternative to traditional malts and hops.

Herbs and Herbalists

It's a constant battle: medicine versus herbs. This is how Marguerite got interested in herbs.

One of the world’s choice beverages for hot summer afternoons and evenings, beer and its brewing have been part of human culture for more than 10,000 years. Any number of strange plants and herbs have been fermented and imbibed, sometimes with startling effects. Honey is perhaps the oldest fermenting ingredient, but many brews included less appetizing elements. Henbane, a powerful narcotic poison of the deadly nightshade family, was sometimes added to beers of the Middle Ages, and the Egyptians brewed beer with mandrake root. Other potentially poisonous herbs used in European ales included pennyroyal and tansy.

Before Germany’s 1516 Bavarian Purity Law (which restricted brewing ingredients to hops, barley and water), poisonous or psychotropic herbs were often included in ale recipes, but they weren’t the only ones. Sage ale, one of the most popular brews of the Middle Ages, was considered almost as a medicinal tonic, with the side effect of being highly inebriating. Yarrow ale was a popular choice for weddings because of its tendency to increase energy, act as an aphrodisiac and generally “make the guests crazy.” Other traditional European ales were often made with heather (called leann fraoich in Gaelic), meadowsweet, juniper, elder flowers and sweet woodruff. 

Today the most common brewing herb is hops, no question, and that fact is largely due to purity laws such as the one mentioned above. Not all of today’s brewers adhere to these guidelines, however, and it may be worthwhile to expand your beer-tasting palate. While a home brewery might be your best chance to try the most creative herbal beers, large brewing companies occasionally use herbs in more mainstream brews. Coriander is often used in Belgian-style white beers and multiple hop varieties flavor IPAs. Other beers contain lavender, cardamom, seaweed, heather, meadowsweet or elder. Check out some of the options in the caption above.

Did you know?  

While most beers today are made with hops, traditional European ales counted clary sage, gentian, ginger, comfrey, horehound, milk thistle and rosemary among their ingredients. 

Beer brewed with hops produces a soporific effect while other herbs, such as yarrow and juniper, increase energy and act as aphrodisiacs when fermented and imbibed. —Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers (Siris, 1998)

Lauren Holt is an editorial intern at The Herb Companion. Katie Priebe contributed research. 

Post a comment below.


Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.