This experiment confirms that Comptonia peregrina is the best all-around native North American “hop substitute” I’ve ever used.
My first new experiment worth writing up since last year’s Pennsylvania Native Plant Gruit Beer, where I first tried brewing with sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) in a big way. This time I combined it with some other reliable brewing herbs for a trans-Atlantic gruit.
This was one of my two most successful experiments of the winter brewing season, and the first I’ve used hops in fifteen years. I wanted to make it basically because the portmanteaus amused me, but as it happened, mugwort and Fuggles hops go together in more ways than just linguistically.
Sassafras and black birch (i.e. wintergreen, more or less) are the dominant notes here; the other flavors blend into a citrusy background. This is a refreshing, summery drink, a bit acidic — imagine a cross between unsweetened herb tea and a nice mild ale.