Sweetfern Red Ale

Brewed 23 January 2017 in Plummer’s Hollow.

I’ve idealized the recipe slightly from what I did in practice, which was to split the beer into two two-and-a-half-gallon batches at secondary, and added half the quantity of the juniper, orange peel and meadowsweet indicated below to just one of those batches. Obviously the experiment was a success, but it should be noted that the sweetfern-only control was also perfectly drinkable.

Although meadowsweet seems to be a powerful anti-microbial herb in its own right, sweetfern alone keeps out the bad bugs as well. Or so my experience with it has led me to believe. I’ll go so far as to say that Comptonia peregrina is the best all-around native North American “hop substitute” I’ve ever used.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5 gal 60 min 0.0 IBUs 14.8 SRM 1.059 1.012 6.3 %


Name Amount %
Munich - Light 10L - US 5 lbs 43.48
Pale 2-Row - US 5 lbs 43.48
Biscuit Malt - BE 8 oz 4.35
Caramel/Crystal 60 - US 8 oz 4.35
Caramel/Crystal 90 - US 8 oz 4.35


Name Amount min Type
sweetfern leaves, dried 3.00 oz 40 min Boil Other
sweetfern leaves, dried 1.00 oz 5 min Boil Other
meadowsweet leaves, dried 1.00 oz 0 min Secondary Other
bitter orange peel, dried 0.33 oz 0 min Secondary Other
juniper berries, crushed 0.33 oz 0 min Secondary Other


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Danstar Nottingham 80% 64°F - 69°F
Fermentis Safale S-04 75% 64°F - 69°F


Wildcrafted sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina), a North American native herb, replaces 100% of the hops to good effect. (Obviously the automatic IBU calculation here is way off.) The herbs in the secondary are optional; it's good either way. Both yeasts may not be necessary, but I like complexity.

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