Brewing Herbs & Spices

Brewing botanicals for beers, gruits and teas

Botanical herbs and spices can be used to brew drinks like beers and teas. While it isn’t hugely common outside of niche, traditional breweries nowadays — it was once a popular ancient practice to brew with herbs.

Before brewing was extensively done with hops, bittering and flavouring beer was done with a mixture of herbs like Myrica gale, wild rosemary and yarrow (called a Gruit). Gruit ales are essentially unhopped beer, charged with botanicals instead (or, simply, a herbal beer). These beers have seen a revival in interest during recent years due to the popularity of craft ales and IPAs.

Modern breweries today still use herbs in commercial brewing operations, especially for special brews and seasonal beers, as this is when brewing herbs like elderflower and heather are available for harvesting.

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What herbs are used in brewing beers and stouts?

There are a number of excellent fresh and dry herbs you can use when brewing. Many herbs have medicinal properties, which is a big reason for brewing herbal teas with specific ingredients like chamomile (feelings of calmness), mint (aids digestion) and hibiscus (can lower blood pressure). Although less common, some herbal beers also offer relief from anti-inflammatory and digestive properties.

We’ve pulled together some of the most common brewing herbs for beers and gruits, including:

  • Bitter Orange Peel is one of the most popular herbs for brewing beer, used by many domestic breweries to duplicate Belgian beer styles
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) adds a bitter, slightly peppery flavour and preservative qualities. It’s often used in gruits and traditional ales.
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) adds a sort of medicinal bitterness and was historically used before hops became common
  • Heather (Calluna vulgaris) is a floral, slightly sweet and earthy flavour that’s used in brewing traditional Scottish ales
  • Juniper Berries (Juniperus communis) are common in Nordic beers like sahti, known for adding a distinct piney aroma and flavour
  • Sweet Gale (Myrica gale) is spicy and slightly bitter, often used in fruits
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is spicy, warming and slightly sweet, which adds complexity for those brewing spiced ales and holiday beers
  • Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is popular in spiced beers due to its fragrant, licorice-like aroma
  • Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is sweet, woody and a touch bitter. If you’re looking to brew stouts and porters, this is a herb you’ll be familiar with already
  • Coriander Seed (Coriandrum sativum) adds a lemony flavour and spice that pairs well with cacao nibs and cloves in dark beer style, including porter and stout. It’s also widely used in Belgian style beers

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Why Choose Mimea?

Mimea is a 140-year-old botanicals business that specialises in providing top-notch herbs and spices from across the globe. We offer a huge selection of brewing herbs, with bulk buy options available, too. If you’re planning to stock up herbal mixtures for your home brew, look no further than Mimea.

We offer outstanding customer service and are small business-friendly. We also offer quick, reliable shipping and, where possible, environmentally-friendly packaging for our products.

If you require allergy information, take a look at our allergen policy or contact us directly if you require more help. Shop Mimea today for the best selection of brewing herbs for beers, gruits, teas and more!

Frequently Asked Questions

Brewing beer with herbs isn’t a new thing. Since the middle-ages, long before the effects of hop in brewing were known, bittering and flavouring beer was done with a select mixture of herbs and botanicals. This mixture (and the beer itself) is called Gruit. The mixture of herbs in Gruit traditionally included herbs like heather, ground-ivy, horehound, mugwort and yarrow.Gruit originated in Northern Europe and dates back at least to the 11th century. We know this because that was when the Roman Emperor Henry IV started taxing Gruit.Sahti, one of the world’s oldest continuously brewed beer styles, is another herbal beer that originated in Finland as far back as the 1300s.

  • Chamomile tea offers a calming effect and is often used to help you sleep more soundly
  • Peppermint tea is most often used to support digestive health, but it also has antioxidant and antibacterial properties
  • Ginger tea is full of antioxidants and is a well-known remedy for nausea
  • Echinacea tea is said to help prevent mild illnesses like the common cold due to potential immune-boosting properties
  • Sage tea is said to improve memory and cognitive function

If you’re looking to add new flavours and aromas to your homebrew, there’s a huge range of herbs that can be added to the basic beer brew concoction of water, good yeast and quality grains. Some herbal beers also see the advantage of a longer shelf life due to preservative herbs added to the brew.From crisp notes of citrus or rich vanilla sweetness to the bitterness of cacao nibs and mugwort, the fun you can have experimenting with your homebrew flavours is nearly-endless. Done properly, crafting a homebrew with herbs and spices can radically transform your good beer into something magically complex in taste.