Tag Archives: yarrow

Radical Brewing

I just got a new pamphlet written by a friend, Steve Stuffit, called Radical Brewing (number 10 in the Bristol Radical History pamphlet series).  It talks about the history of brewing, and includes a section on the philosophy of nettle picking for brews.  There’s even a recipe that I’m going to try.

The pamphlet gives a rundown of the history of brewing, from its origins as a small scale activity that was widely practiced, through the regulation of brewing and the beginnings of its development as big business, to the present day.  There is an emphasis on home brewing as asserting one’s rights over the commons, particularly if one isn’t using hops (which although you can find wild or grow yourself tend to be commercially farmed and quite expensive).  I recommend it as a good and interesting read.  I’ve certainly found it inspiring.


Old Splitting Axe

I’ve decided that the next beer I’m going to brew is going to be a variation of the Skull Splitter, in an Old Ale style. This will make for quite a ‘big’ beer, that will be darker in colour and stronger (at around 6.5%), probably about the same colour as Fuller’s ESB.  The herbs remain the same, but there’s more malt and chocolate malt will be added to give it a nuttiness that the Skull Splitter didn’t have.

The recipe:

4lbs malt extract syrup
1/2 lb crystal malt
1/8 lb chocolate malt
1 oz mugwort (at start of boil)
1 oz yarrow (1/2 at start of boil, 1/2 at last ten minutes)
1/4 oz crushed juniper berries (last ten minutes)
2 gallons water (UK)

Expected OG: 1.060-1.070
Expected FG: 1.016-1.020

Skull Splitter

This is the next brewing project.  Based on a mixture of my Yarrow Pale Ale and adapted from the recipe on Gruit Ale.  I’ve not included the smoked malt from the original recipe, as although I like smoked beer it is an acquired taste (someone once likened it to having heavily smoked bacon steeped in beer).

Ingredients for 2 UK gallons:

3 lbs Malt Extract (3 essential jars)
4 ozs crystal malt
1/2 oz dried yarrow (plus 1/4 oz for ‘finishing’)
1/2 oz dried mugwort
2.5g juniper berries
Ale yeast
2 UK gallons (9 litres) water

Method as for the Yarrow Pale Ale, with Juniper and an extra 1/4 oz dried yarrow added to the last ten minutes of the boil.

OG: 1.048
FG: 1.013


The recipe laid out in full with process and details on colour.

Skull Splitter boiling

Skull Splitter boiling


Before the late 19th Century beer was brewed with things other than hops. Beer generally needs a bittering agent to offset the sweetness of the malts use in the process, and this is the job that the hops in modern beers perform.  

Before the widespread use of hops, ales were flavoured with gruit (somethimes pronounced groot), which uses one or more of a number of herbs including yarrow, mugwort, bog mytrle (aka sweet gale), juniper berries, wild rosemary, sage and others.

I’ve found an excellent resource on brewing gruit ales, along with recipes here.

Yarrow Pale Ale

I bottled the Yarrow Pale Ale this morning.  It’s got a very pleasant herbal and floral flavour, that will make it a very pleasant beer for a week of very hot weather.  Colour wise it turned out a nice reddish amber, as can be seen in the picture.


Yarrow Pale Ale

Yarrow Pale Ale

Yarrow Pale Ale

I decided to make this after learning about yarrow.  Yarrow is an ancient plant, that is naturally antiseptic, will stop bleeding and contains thujone, the active chmeical found in absinthe. As I recently learned, this is a true ale as it doesn’t use hops (these were sometimes called gruit). I adapted the recipe from self-sufficientish and used the tables from Charles Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing to formulate the ingredients and quantities for a pale ale.

It came out a little dark for a pale ale, so I suppose this is a ‘not quite pale ale.  This is as a result of boiling dark green foliage in with the malts.

The recipe:

3 lbs malt extract (three jars)
4 oz crushed crystal malt
4 oz fresh yarrow leaves
Ale yeast
2 Gallons (9 litres) water

I boiled the malt extract and crushed malt with the yarrow for 1/2 hour in approx 1 gallon water, then topped up to 2 gallons (uk) with cold water. Ale yeast added when cooled to below 24 degrees C.
OG: 1.039 (should be around 4%)
FG: 1.013

The recipe laid out in full with process and details on colour.

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