Gruit Ale with Kveik

Brewed on 8 January 2018 in Plummer’s Hollow.

Juniperus virginianaThough this is by no means an attempt to recreate a Norwegian farmhouse ale, as documented by the independent researcher and beer blogger extraordinaire Lars Marius Garshol—the reason why craft brewers now have access to this unique strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae—I was guided by his and others’ reports of the use of juniper in Scandinavian brewing, where it’s not so much the “berries” (seed cones) that are used as the fresh twigs and branches, often layered into the lauter tun in large quantities. Luckily for me, I have a large juniper tree right outside my door!

But is eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), a North American native, really that similar to the common juniper (Juniperus communis) of Europe? Well, it’s close enough for the cones to be used in gin production, so that’s good enough for me. Also, the wood’s legendary resistance to rot and insects suggests that it should have strong anti-microbial properties in beer, which is kind of what you want in a “hop substitute” — which is probably why the use of J. communis is so common in the Baltic region.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5 gal 60 min 0.0 IBUs 9.9 SRM 1.053 1.011 5.6 %


Name Amount %
Pale 2-Row - US 7 lbs 70
Caramel/Crystal 60 - US 1 lbs 10
Rye - US 1 lbs 10
Smoked Malt - US 1 lbs 10


Name Amount min Type
eastern red cedar twigs, freshly pruned 32.00 oz 0 min Mash Other
yarrow tops, dried 2.00 oz 0 min Boil Other
mugwort leaves, dried 1.50 oz 0 min Boil Other
sweetfern leaves, dried 1.50 oz 0 min Boil Other


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Sigmund's Voss Kveik 80% 64°F - 69°F


One of the herbal beers I typically make, but using the yeast (kveik) from Norwegian farmhouse beer. I kept the primary temperature around 80F, and it was ready to bottle in three days! It tasted nice: tart, somewhat citrusy. A perfect background for juniper (eastern red cedar) and sweetfern. The juniper went in the mash; I added the yarrow and mugwort at the beginning of the boil, mainly for bitterness, and the sweetfern ten minutes before flame-out.

Here’s The Yeast Bay’s description of the yeast:

Sigmund’s Voss Kveik yeast is a single strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae isolated from a sample of kveik generously provided by Sigmund Gjernes via Lars Garshol (click here for Lars’ blog).

Traditionally used in the production of Norwegian Farmhouse Ale, this strain is a fast fermenter with good attenuation, a light earthy spiciness, marked tartness and unique ester profile of orange peel. This strain is prone to forming incredibly large flocs unlike any other yeast we’ve seen before, yet still remains highly attenuative. Sigmund’s Voss Kveik also exhibits the ability to ferment wort over a large temperature range, 70 – 100 ºF, without major changes to the flavor profile or production of any harsh phenolics or fusel alchohols.

This yeast will exhibit a slightly more restrained ester profile and ferment a little slower at cooler fermentation temperatures, and quickly produce a drier beer with a slightly more pronounced ester profile at warmer fermentation temperatures. We highly recommend taking this into the high end of temperature range, 90-100 ºF.

4 thoughts on “Gruit Ale with Kveik”

  • I am planning to make a similar brew, but I’m seeing mixed information about toxic potential from eastern red cedar, aka juniperus virginana. Any clarification you can provide would be useful.

    • Hi Jeremy. I had never seen any suggestion that J. virginiana is toxic before now, doing a search for it with the word “toxic” in it. I see “large amounts may cause diarrhea” on this NC Extension webpage. Looking in Peterson’s Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs, I see cautious statements about potential toxicity in large quantities about both this and common juniper – an extremely common addition to farmstead beer in many Baltic companies. A little bit of it – a few branches, or a small number of berries – will give you the taste you need. So I don’t know how seriously to take these warnings. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. All I can say is it’s never been an issue for me.

      • Thanks, Dave. I’m new to this and was interested in making sahti, I found a few locations that seemed to caution or suggest avoiding use of j. virginiana but the information was conflicting. I plan to use 5 or six branch tips in my kettle and finish with about 0.5 ounces of dried berries I purchased. I appreciate the sources you provided.

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