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Find out more about nettles - how to benefit from them and how to get rid of them
16:12, 13th Apr 2012

Making Nettle Beer
Find out how to make your nettle beer
16:10, 13th Apr 2012

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Making Nettle Beer

Find out how to make your nettle beer

Making Nettle Beer

recipes | foraging

In our introductory article on Nettles we discussed some of the many uses and benefits of these typically unwanted plants including making nettle tea. However, many of our site visitors were disappointed that we did not also provide instructions for making delicious sparkling nettle beer, so here you are.

Nettle Beer

While home brewing can be a complex business requiring all manner of expensive equipment, nettle beer has been made for many centuries with the most rudimentary of kit so for this recipe you will not need deep pockets.

Large saucepan for nettle beer making

You will however need, a very large saucepan for boiling up the nettles. If you do not have a very large saucepan do not despair - smaller pans can be used to boil up the nettles in batches. You will also need a bucket, some clear hose, a colander or sieve, sterlising tablets or liquid, and beer bottles. The ingredients comprise nettles, caster sugar, cream of tartar, lemons, and baking or beer yeast.

Pick a plastic bag full of nettles

The first task is to pick the nettles. Pick only the young tender leaves from the tops of the nettle bushes. These are the tastiest and most nutritious. Collect them in a plastic shopping bag without squashing them down, and when the bag is full you will have enough for around 10-12 bottles of nettle beer. Give them a good clean and discard any unwanted bits and pieces which have found their way into the bag at the same time.

Bring 6 litres of water to the boil. If you have had to use more than one pan, then split the bag of nettles into piles proportional in size to the amount of water in the pan to which they will (soon) be added.

When the water is boiling turn off the heat and drop the nettles into the pan and just leave them steeping in there until the water has cooled enough for the pan to be safely handled. Pour the nettles and water through the sieve or colander into the sterilised bucket. Stir around 700g of caster sugar into the liquid and stir until the sugar has dissolved and leave the mixture to cool down to room temperature.

Now add the juice of two lemons, a sachet of yeast, and 40g of cream of tartar to the liquid (first following any instructions on the yeast packet to activate the yeast if required). The bucket should then be covered and left in a warm place for at least three days. When you uncover it there should be a beery smell of fermentation and froth on the top of the liquid. Skim the froth and discard, and you are now ready to bottle the nettle beer.

Swing top beer bottles for nettle beer

Swing top beer bottles (as pictured above) should ideally be used for nettle beer since it can be a powerfully sparkling beer which may fight its way out of weaker topped bottles (but make sure you read our warning at the end of this article).

bottling nettle beer

Syphon the beer from the bucket into the bottles taking care not to disturb the sludgy sediment at the bottom of the bucket. To do this, place one end of your clear tubing into the bucket, suck on the other end until beer reaches the top of the tube and then drop it into the sterilised beer bottles which you will have lined up next to each other to facilitate efficient bottling. Some beer will always end up on the floor, so do not do this job on your favourite carpet.

Cold glass of nettle beer

Put the stoppers into the bottles and store them in a cool dark place for at least one week. The beer is now ready to drink, but it is best to be patient and wait a couple more weeks so that the nettle beer will develop a better flavour. It will keep well and taste excellent for at least a month after that.

If nettle beer is bottled before fermentation is complete then there is a danger of a bottle exploding. This is obviously extremely dangerous so as a beginner it is advisable to make your first batches in sterilised plastic screwcap bottles until you really know what you are doing, use a little less sugar to reduce the amount of CO2 generated, and leave the beer in the fermentation bucket a day or two longer before bottling.

Nettle beer making can be dangerous

This nettle beer must be stored somewhere cool as the pressure on the bottle will increase with rising temperatures, and store the bottles somewhere that an exploding bottle would not cause injury. Chill the beer before opening - ideally in a bucket of icy water rather than in the fridge - and enjoy responsibly.

Shopping List

Here are some useful links to relevant products:
swing top bottles
plastic beer bottles

Article Published: 16:10, 13th Apr 2012

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