Brewing Beyond Hops: Tree Beer

Brewers and beer lovers alike may be surprised by the newest ingredient used in craft beer: wafer ash tree fruit. Texas-based Jester King Brewery has released a tree beer that uses this bitter and unusual fruit as a replacement of hops. Make sure to check out this article to find out more about the amazing brewing process of this new beer and the resourceful ingenuity of home brewers!

Tree Beer: Brewing with Wafer Ash

Craft beer and ancient history merge in a unique concoction when Jester King Brewery uses the fruits of the wafer ash tree in their latest special brew. Among the many world-wide brewing traditions, a resourcefulness has been the cornerstone since the very beginning. Homebrewers and artisans alike have often looked back to the past to find new and creative ways to construct the flavors of their beer. This is the spirit of trial and experimentation that Jester King honors with their latest branch of beer brewed specifically with wafer ash.

What is Wafer Ash?

Wafer ash, also known as hop hornbeam, is a small tree that can be found in North America, Eastern Asia, and Europe. It is a sturdy species, capable of growing up to 10 feet in height with a trunk measuring nearly 8 inches around. Its deciduous leaves are fan-shaped. The broad leaves are doubly serrated and grow in opposite pairs. The most unique aspect of the wafer ash tree is the nut-like fruit it produces each autumn.

The fruit’s outer casing is leathery and brown-gray in color. Inside are two or three sections that contain the wafer ash nut. These nuts vary from gray-green to brown-black and can either be smooth or slightly hairy. As the name implies, these nuts contain an ash-like quality similar to hop-bitter beer.

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Brewing with Wafer Ash

Jester King was the first American brewery to explore the idea of using wafer ash to provide the bitter flavor of hops. For a few brews, the brewery swapped out hops entirely with wafer ash and created an intriguing new flavor profile. The brewery hoped to draw attention to the ancient resourcefulness of homebrewers and offer a new kind of craft beer.

That isn’t to say that wafer ash will replace hops anytime soon; hops do provide a more well-rounded flavor with ample bitterness, aroma, and flavor that wafer ash cannot match. Fortunately, wafer ash and hops together offer a unique flavor completely void of any overly intense bitterness. Overall, the use of wafer ash helps create unique and exciting flavors.

Brewer's Guide to Using Wafer Ash

Using wafer ash in beer brewing can be compared to using regular hops. The ash does provide traditional bittering qualities, although it needs to be added at the beginning of the boil and left in for at least an hour to achieve the maximum bitterness. Adding the wafer ash nuts during the last five minutes of the boil releases some flavor but does not achieve the desired bitterness.

The amount of wafer ash to use for every five gallons of beer will differ, as the bitterness of each nut can be a bit of a surprise. As a good rule, 1/2 to 1 ounce of wafer ash nuts is a good place to start, and it can easily be adjusted to taste during the next brew. Be sure to inspect the wafer ash nuts, as the intensity of flavor can vary significantly.

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Using Wafer Ash Tips and Tricks

  • Wafer ash nuts can be boiled or toasted to release its full spectrum of flavors.
  • Powdering wafer ash nuts can help make them easier to dissolve when used together with hops.
  • Adding wafer ash nuts after fermentation (dry-hopping) increases aroma without introducing added bitterness.
  • Do not add wafer ash late in the boil if using for bitterness, as it can cause a grassy, soapy taste.

Benefits of Brewing with Wafer Ash

Jester King set out to honor the ingenuity of resourceful homebrewers of history, but the brewery has opened an entirely new era of beer brewing. By using wafer ash instead of hops, brewers can save money on a single brew, or they can simply use wafer ash nuts to complement the flavor of the hops already added. Additionally, wafer ash adds a certain subtlety that can make the beer more complex and unique.


Brewing beer with wafer ash is a creative and entertaining way for brewers to add a twist of complexity and subtlety to their favorite beers. Though it does not fully replace hops, wafer ash can reduce the cost of a single batch without losing its flavorful spirit. Moreover, w

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