Sunday, 25 November 2012

Ale Hoof - Brewing ale without hops

Glechoma hederacea or Ground Ivy or Ale Hoof - It has a long association with ale making... its name is a bit of a clue. Used before the hop became the de facto flavouring of choice for brewers. It has a slightly minty or nettle aroma. It grows abundantly and can be harvested in the early summer when the leaves are growing freely and are fresh.

Presented with a large bag of freshly picked Alehoof I wanted to make a beer using this as a replacement to the standard hops.

For a 25Litre batch of beer:

1) Select the top freshest leaves from the plants, leaving all woody parts and limp leaves behind. Pull all the leaves off the stems and collect enough to fill a 4 litre jug (just fill with the leaves - not pressed).

2) Prepare a basic pale ale brew but still using hops for the bittering stage, I wanted a measurable level of bitterness - but you could use the alehoof for this stage as well. I did not add any aroma hops.

3) At the end of the boiling stage I switched off the heat and added my jug full of alehoof leaves for a  hot soak lasting 20 minutes.

4) Cool and transfer to fermentor, leaving the leaves behind in the boiler.

5) Allow to ferment as normal.

Once fermentation was complete, I tried the alehoof:

The ale had cleared as normal, it had a slightly nettle / hedgerow aroma to it, but not unpleasant. The taste was again, slightly nettle with a minty edge, but a very pleasant woody, fruity bitterness. It has an interesting bitter side to it that calls you back to try more. The ale was then served at the Veralum Arms in St Albans as a one off special.

Overall I was very pleased with the AleHoof and it is certainly a brew I would want to try again next summer.


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