I’ve always said that if I were to wake up suddenly allergic to seafood, I’d go to Boston, gather up all the ingredients for a fine bouillabaisse and go out in style.
But if that were a hop allergy, I’d search out the best medical doctors, read up on the latest convergence of science and medicine, opt for a total-body transplant, anything to be able to continue to consume beverages with hops in them.
Why the sudden fear about hop allergies? I’d never met someone allergic to hops until yesterday. A co-worker told me a horrific story about her 21st birthday, which ended with her blue in a bathtub suffering anaphylactic shock. From hops no less.
So what is a person to do if they’re allergic to hops? Drink an Oregon IPA and go out in style? Not necessarily. Think back, way back to when people brewed without hops. Never, you say? Actually, hops haven’t been around nearly as long as beer has. Early beers were often brewed with gruits, mixtures of herbs and other plants that had medicinal and preservative qualities.
Called gruit or grut ales, these bad boys could be anything from aphrodisiac to cancer-curing libations of the gods. Offering a different kind of buzz than hopped ales, grut ales gradually went out of style after the reformation and something called the purity laws.
The American craft beer revolution certainly did its part to bring back that tradition, and there are a few examples available today. But your most likely source of gruit ales is your local homebrew club or these fine British examples.
Check out this site for other great gruit ales and other historic beers with and without hops.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. There is a beer for everyone, even people with hop allergies.