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Brewing With Sage, An Ancient Tradition

Sage ale was one of the primary ales brewed throughout the Middle Ages, says Stephen Harrod Buhner in Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers.

Emily Hutto Apr 19, 2014 - 3 min read

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“[Sage] was considered highly medicinal and wholesome.” In the book, Buhner includes three recipes for sage ale: an eighteenth century sage ale brewed with lemon juice, a hopped nineteenth century version brewed with molasses and rye, and a modern take on this style, brewed with licorice root and brown sugar. It’s inferred from the book, and evident in today’s craft beer marketplace, that brewers are experimenting with this classic beer ingredient.

Epic Brewing's Utah Sage Saison smells like traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The recipe starts with a balanced malt base of 2-Row, Marris Otter, Pilsner, Wheat, and Rye malt. “We add barley flakes for body and boil for our standard amount of time for most brews, 90 minutes,” says Epic Brewer Kim Collins in Denver, Colorado. “During the boil, we use high alpha acid hops that kick off lemony-citrus notes,” she continues. Five minutes before the end of the boil, fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage are added in a mesh bag. Finally, Utah Sage Saison is fermented with Belgian yeast, which brings a refreshing quality to this earthy saison.

Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery brewed Wild Sage Ale as part of the Province Ale Company project. The beer is brewed with mostly pale malts and 25 percent rye in the mash, baking powder, candied aged hops, and dried, wild grown sage. “[Sage] was a regular component in old European gruits and was favored by the English for use in ale in the 17th and 18th centuries. The baking powder was added in the mash along with the pale and rye malts, to purportedly counteract the ‘weight’ of the heavy doughy rye malt,” says the Dogfish Head website. See more details on how this beer was brewed.

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