Mugwort. Yarrow. Bee Balm. Hibiscus. Minty bay leaf. Bog myrtle. Redwood twigs. Yerba mate. Wild rosemary. Sweet gale. Pine.

No, this isn’t an ingredient list for a magic potion. It’s a cross-section of some of the alternatives to the hops that dominate today as the main flavoring agents of beer. In a WSJ article, beer writer William Bostwick breaks down the specs on gruit (a.k.a. grut), one example of an ancient ale that was brewed with little to no hops, using instead different herbs and spices.

Apparently, brewers didn’t start using hops until about seven centuries ago—a drop in the near seven millenia history of beer-making—and at the time, the ingredient was only introduced to take advantage of the preservative quality found in hops.

Brewers like Moonlight’s Brian Hunt see countless possibilities in reviving the tradition of gruit beer and other herbal alternatives. However, they are required by law to include at least a bit of hops in their beer, in order to qualify as a malt beverage.

[via Wall Street Journal]