Sassafras IPA with Kveik

freshly dug sassafras roots in a pan of water

I haven’t been brewing much for the past year or so, for the simple reason that I’ve cut way back on my own drinking. But I still love to brew, so it occurred to me half-way through December that I could brew a batch of beer to give away. My beer-loving friend Chris was due to turn 50 on New Year’s Eve, and I knew I’d never have a better excuse than that.

Now you may be saying to yourself, that didn’t give you nearly enough time to brew AND bottle! But thanks to Lars Marius Garshol’s wonderful, epoch-making book Historical Brewing Techniques: The Lost Art of Farmhouse Brewing, I knew all about the magic of kveik, yeast selected by generations of Norwegian farmers for just this purpose: fast, high-alcohol holiday beers. My previous experiments had used the Sigmund’s Voss strain, but this time I decided to try the Espe strain, OYL-090, purchased in slurry form from Omega Yeast:

Originating from the village of Grodås in Norway, the Espe kveik blend offers the unique profile of lychee, pear, and tropical fruit cup. It bolsters the sweet aromatics of modern IPAs, but is versatile enough for your flagship pale ale or seasonal brew. Most expressive when fermented at 90°F+ (32°C+), Espe still reveals character at its lower temperature range.

Since I’m not planning to brew more than twice a year from here on out, I wanted to use up as much malt and hops in the pantry as possible, so sophisticated craft beer types may notice that the hops list in this recipe seems a bit random. I had just taken advantage of a December thaw to dig some sassafras in the back forty (see photo), so naturally that had to go in — for the color as much as the taste. I put it in toward the end of the boil, then saved it in the freezer and added it back (after re-boiling) after the primary fermentation had finished… on the fourth day of fermenting at close to 90F, which believe it or not is recommended for kveik, and doesn’t lead to any off flavors. Three days after that, the hydrometer was reading 1.010 and the bubbles through the airlock had slowed to about one a minute, so I bottled it, using a cup and a quarter of Grade A maple syrup. One more warm day in the bottles and then into Chris’ garage (which was in the low 50s), three days before the party. By New Year’s Eve, it was perfect. And for some reason the head retention was excellent.

I forgot to add Irish moss, so the beer wasn’t as pretty as it might’ve been, but otherwise it turned out very well. Is it pale enough, or hoppy enough, to qualify as an IPA? The BeerSmith app doesn’t think so, but that’s where my inspiration came from, so I’m not changing the title. I’d definitely make it again, were it not for the fact that I can’t brew the same beer twice.

Recipe Details

Batch Size Boil Time IBU SRM Est. OG Est. FG ABV
5 gal 60 min 34.7 IBUs 8.8 SRM 1.090 1.010 10.8 %


Name Amount %
Pale Malt (2 Row) US 12 lbs 69.36
Munich Malt - 10L 2 lbs 11.56
Victory Malt 1 lbs 5.78
Aromatic Malt 4.8 oz 1.73
Cane (Beet) Sugar 2 lbs 11.56


Name Amount Time Use Form Alpha %
Amarillo 1 oz 60 min Boil Pellet 9.2
Mt. Hood 1 oz 20 min Boil Pellet 6
Fuggles 1 oz 5 min Boil Pellet 4.5
Cascade 1 oz 0 min Boil Pellet 5.5


Name Amount Time Use Type
Sassafras Root Bark 1.00 oz 3 days Secondary Spice


Name Lab Attenuation Temperature
Espe Kveik 79% 68°F - 95°F


Step Temperature Time
Mash In 152°F 60 min
Mash Out 168°F 10 min


1. Mash at 150F for an hour.
2. Boil for 60 minutes followed by a ten-minute steep.
3. Primary fermentation should be close to 90F (!). After three days, rack into secondary with sassafras root in mesh bag.
4. Bottle with approx. 10 oz. maple syrup.

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