Introduction: British - Stinging Nettle Beer

Picture of British - Stinging Nettle Beer

Being a lover of FREE things, the idea of making beer out of a common weed sounded pretty cool, but the results have been much better than expected.

We have a long tradition of beer in this country, indeed, historically, beer was the only safe thing to drink.

I love beer, it is one of my favourite drinks so, producing something that I would enjoy was a real challenge.

Step 1: Get the Nettles

Picture of Get the Nettles

First you need to collect nettles.

You need a lot of them. You don't want to decimate an area, stinging nettles are an important plant for wildlife, so leave a good percentage alone.

The lower leaves are not so good, so only pick the top six leaves.

Don't pick any at "dog" height, near paths or alongside busy roads, because they will be "contaminated".

You want nice, fresh, clean nettle tops off young plants, if they have flowered or gone to seed, you are too late. Be careful to pick only stinging nettles, you can check they are stinging nettle by rubbing your hand on them, if they sting, then you probably have the right plant!

Spring is the best time, as they are bursting into growth all young and vigorous.

It takes a long time to pick enough nettles to make a batch of beer.

So after a nice walk in the country I had a cup of Tea and a Fig roll before unpacking the bag with a lot of very compressed nettles.

Step 2: Weigh the Nettles and Decide the Quantities You Are Going to Use.

Picture of Weigh the Nettles and Decide the Quantities You Are Going to Use.

I sat them on the scales to work out my quantities.

I had 1.7 kilos of nettles

So I reckoned I would use 800g of sugar and 8 litres of water and a couple of lemons.

There are a lot of recipes about, I am a great one for reading them all and then not following one, but stealing bits of each.

This is a STRONG (Alcoholic) beer, there are a lot of much lighter recipies out there with less sugar in them.

Step 3: Prepare the Nettles

Picture of Prepare the Nettles

I picked over the nettles, picking out any unwanted debris and shooing and insects out, then rinsed to get rid of any "unwanted" residue, with hindsight, I am not entirely sure rinsing was needed. The nettles are boiled and the dark colour of the rinse water suggest a fair bit of "goodness" got rinsed out as well.

Step 4: Make the Mash

Picture of Make the Mash

Take the stinging nettles and put them in a pan. Now, you need a big pan, but, don't panic, as you put them in and they cook, they mush down to a fraction of the size, so even though there is no way I could fit all the raw nettles into such a small pot, they did eventually all go in.

Bring the pan to the boil and add them in in batches, eventually they all go in.

Leave to simmer for 20mins.

Step 5: Prepare the Yeast, Sugar and Other Ingrediants

Picture of Prepare the Yeast, Sugar and Other Ingrediants

Whilst the nettles simmer, prepare your yeast.

To make the beer, I used ordinary freeze dried bakers yeast, to get it started I put a little in some warm water with a few teaspoons of sugar and left it in a warm place to start growing.

If your yeast hasn't got going, wait longer or have another go.

I didn't sterilise, I just used a plate and jug hot out of the dishwasher, this seems to work fine for me, but I guess sterilising would be a good idea.

I weighed out my sugar, I don't use refined sugar, so this was a mixture of all the remains of all the bits of sugar I had, topped up with some organic unrefined castor sugar.

I also got a couple of lemons ready to juice, (roll them first and they juice better)

Step 6: Cooking Over

Picture of Cooking Over

Having cooked the nettles, you leave them to cool.

They do not have to be cold, but they should be cool enough not to be a scalding hazard.

Using a clean brewing bucket, I poured in my sugar, and lemon juice, I also added some powdered ginger, i guess any herb could go in for flavour.

Then I added in the mash, using a colander with some big spoon either side to stop it falling into the bucket and a potato masher to force the liquid out, and working in several batches, I got as much of the juice into the bucket as possible. The nettles, at first, had a green taste but at this point the renaming fibre had barely any flavour in it at all, hopefully it was all in the beer now.

I topped it up with cool water, let it cool a bit more (to warm room temperature) added the yeast, stuck on the lid and put it in a warm place for 4 days to ferment.

Step 7: Bottleing

Picture of Bottleing

You need old empty beer bottles, I like the 500ml size as smaller bottles tend to be a pain to work with.

I am never organised enough to have the number of bottles I need when I need them, so I have a simple strategy for getting them.

I go to the bottle bank and put out a box and a sign taped to the bank asking people to put bottle in the box.

Now you need to clean your bottles. You might also want to remove the old labels,

At this point you will discover that all labels are not the same. A lot of companies are now using plastic labels that don't come off. One of the joys of bottle bank collection is you soon, get to know the good from the bad, and if you have enough available you can "afford" to throw the bad back into the bank.

At this point the beer should be "fermented out" that is to say it should have stopped making new bubbles (or very much slowed down)

Having washed the bottles, I submerge them in sterilising solution, you can use a brewing one or tablets for babies bottles. They then get a rinse.

I prepare my bottles by adding a half a teaspoon of sugar to each, this will ferment after the bottle is sealed and make it fizzy.

The liquid in the brewing bucket is then syphoned off using some plastic tube, I have a fancy brewing tool that keeps the pipe near the bottom, but out of the sediment, our goal is to leave as much sediment behind as we can.

With the bottles filled, I used put crown caps on the bottles, these are easy to do, you just hammer them on with a cheap tool.

Leave the bottles in a warm place for the fermentation to finish off then drink. If you leave it a few days and pour carefully, you can leave the yeast in the bottle, the ginger in mine made it look cloudy whatever you did.

Step 8: Epilogue

After a week of being in the bottle I checked one, it was very very gassy, just turned to a massive jet of foam half the beer was gone by the time it stopped erupting.

This is probably because the brew was still fermenting when I bottled it. So more fermentation happened in the bottle after it was sealed that would be desirable.

The solution is to open the bottle, just a tiny crack and let the gas out really slowly and leave them for a few hours like that before opening a little more to check that there is no more gas, once all the gas is released, just grab the crown tool and whack the caps back down.

I also made some labels for the beer, having had my wife constantly remind me not to put any hemlock in the bag when we were collecting, I thought it would be fun to make labels with hemlock on them and see if people recognised the potential danger of drinking nettle beer by someone who if the put hemlock on the label might have put it in the beer. I am sad to say, no one mentioned it, perhaps they are all too polite. I still had a chuckle.

The end result was nice, it had a really beery taste. It did not have a lot of bitterness, but, that is why hops got introduced to beer and got rid of old country recipes like this from commercial production. It was very drinkable and not at all reminiscent of nettles.


JaimeL5 (author)2015-05-29

Sadly after letting my nettle concoction sit for 5 days, there was a bit of mold floating on top. Do I have to throw the whole thing away?

masoon (author)2010-10-03

is that 8.4 kilos of sugar? - could you make an ingredients list with proper measurements? I don't fare well in the kitchen and don't want to mess up by adding too much of this or not enough of that. - Thanks, and thanks for posting this article.

brucedenney (author)masoon2010-10-04

The amount of sugar and water is dependant on the amount of nettles you get.

I used 1.7Kg of nettles, 800grams of Sugar and 8 litres of water,

(If you had 2.5 times as much then you need 2.5 times as much of everything eg 4.25kg nettles 1.225 kg Sugar and 20 litres of water.)

If you put more/less sugar in a recipe then you get more/less alcohol. this is a strong recipe, if you put a lot more sugar in the yeast will not fair so well.

Yeasts have different properties, you could use a win yeast and double the amount of sugar and make something that would be more of a nettle wine.

You could use a quarter of the sugar and make a very low alcohol "small" beer of the sort that was given to children in days gone bye...

The recipe is a guide, you should make it your own by changing things about it yourself and hopefully brewing many different batches over the years and discovering what YOU like and making it the way YOU like it.

masoon (author)brucedenney2010-10-04

wow, thanks for the information! I go boating in small waters around Kentucky and "discovered " nettle for the first time last year. I look forward to trying your recipe. I wonder if nettle could be frozen for use later in the year when the plants have gotten too old to harvest. I do appreciate your answering my questions, its unusually kind of you to take the time to do so, thank you.

brucedenney (author)masoon2010-10-04

The nettles just turn to mush when you "cook" them so I see no reason why freezing would do any additional harm, indeed it could help the juices flow.

Traditionally drying nettles was a popular method of preserving them and indeed is what you need for nettle tea, which is very nice. So if it is warn and dry, it might be worth having a go at drying some.

I know of some people making nettle beer from a nettle tea mash.

Having said all that, seasonality is a great ting and only having nettle beer in the spring when the nettles are young is not a bad thing, just helps your body keep track of where in the year you are.

masoon (author)brucedenney2010-10-04

Thats it! I'm going to throw my calendar away and keep track of time using only intoxicants. Seems like a great way to pass /observe time in these recessionary times. Cheers , and thanks again.

masoon (author)2010-10-03

you suggested we use a "few" teaspoons for the yeast, maybe you could be more specific? two, three, four? please use specific measurements.

brucedenney (author)masoon2010-10-04

The yeast grows on the sugary solution, you could put half a teaspoon in and it would get there, just it would take a lot longer and the chances of some other, [potentially unwanted yeast taking over would increase. Eventually you end up with a thick cake of yeast in the bucket so the quantity is not that important.

If you want an exact number then 3 but 2 would work fine

PerfectionLost (author)2009-10-23

A half spoon of sugar to each bottle is way too much.  You should also disolve your priming sugar in water first.  Here is a not too shabby chart on the amount of sugar to use per 5 gallons of beer:

In addition I would recommend doing a transfer to a second container a couple days prior to bottling to keep the sediment out of your bottles.

northcoastnomad (author)2009-09-24

Is it possible to check if it is nettle w/o getting stung? I dont want people to look at me funny after getting stung cause i easily get an adrenaline rush and totally start shaking. lol (i say that cause here out in the back roads a lot of people grow pot and so if i have shaking hands. . . well then they might think im looking for cannabis or such haha)

I don't think you will have a problem, mistaking cannabis for stinging nettles, they look very different. If people think you are high on cannabis, so what! If you don't know what a stinging nettle looks like and have never been stung, then it might be a good life experiance to get stung and find out. I am pretty sure that there are no risks to normal people from getting stung, If you are not prepared to get stung, Don't do it, because it is very unlikely that you could complete the making of nettle beer without getting stung at some point. If your reaction to stinging nettles is so severe, perhaps you should seek medical advice before stinging yourself, or consuming nettle beer.

I remember getting stung by nettle a few years ago. I didnt like it, but i think i will get used to it. Thanks for reassuring me; and you are right, the two plants are not at all alike. Silly me, i should of thought about that one.

west909 (author)2009-09-13

Can definitely vouch for GUIDED's reccomendation. Followed his advice on the bottling and ended up with lovely fizzy brew. Certainly no need for excess sugar/syrup in the empty bottles as coating them seems to provide plenty of CO2.

doobuzz (author)2009-06-04

Mine's brewing as I speak - A few observations: 1. I added honey instead of sugar in order to 'prolong' fermentation (which in hindsight seems a bit unnecessary). However, that fermented fully in under 2 days and I have just topped it up with another batch of sugar. This is going to be VERY alcoholic (as in14/15% alcoholic - and it's beer!) 2. I decided to only pick the top 10 cm or so of nettles which had not yet flowered, and it took 45 minutes to yield just 320g. If you're interested in doing this project in the UK i recommend you get out there and do it NOW or you will find yourself wading through groves of metre tall stingers to get to the rapidly diminishing supply of new growth. Overall a great instructable which shows just how easy brewing can be!

willayl (author)doobuzz2009-09-01

Doobuzz How much honey did you add initially to start the fermentation? I would be interested in making a strong batch like you mentioned above.

t.rohner (author)doobuzz2009-06-19

Is it beer?
By definition, beer is made from converted starches, which in turn are mostly from cereals.(barley, wheat, rye, rice...other possible sources are pumpkins, potatoes...)
It's just nitpicking of course ;-)
A very interesting book about all kinds of fermented beverages:

No affiliation with the author from my side of the Atlantic...

brucedenney (author)doobuzz2009-06-18

1. Sounds like mead, which I have made several times, but it needs to sit a long time to taste good... perhaps I feel another instructable coming on.

cepartin (author)2009-08-30

A rinse is a good idea. During and after flowering, the stinging nettle forms cystoliths on its leaves which may irritate the urinary tract or even contribute to kidney stones. I'd put them in a colander and rinse the heck out of them -- that ought to be enough. Boiling might not rid you of the minerals of which the cystoliths are composed.

discontinuuity (author)2009-05-16

You might be able to get those labels off with acetone (nail polish remover). It will dissolve all kinds of plastic and glue.

Good idea ... but... To be honest, I would rather not use nasty chemicals, especially as the only issue is cosmetic. If I really wanted I could just wait for more bottles.

Seeing as you live in the UK Wilkinsons sell x6 beer bottles without labels for this very purpose for only £1.29. That's how I got mine.

t.rohner (author)brucedenney2009-05-28

As a homebrewer, i removed labels from thousands of bottles. As long as they don't have alluminum foil, it's no problem. Fill a large container with hot water, then add some dishwashing machine detergent and fill and soak them for 30-60 minutes. The labels should come off easily. About two years ago, we got hold of a commercial dish washer. We converted it to a bottle washer and it takes only 10 minutes and all the labels come off automatically. In breweries, they use hot sodium hydroxide. But this stuff is a bit too harsh on the skin for everyday use... We have it for stubborn "dirt", but use it only with gloves, goggles and protective clothing. By the way: We make elder flower sparkling wine.(It's the time of year now) We let it fully ferment with a fermentation lock.(Until there is no more bubbling in the lock.) Then we transfer it into a bottling container and add a defined amount of boiled sugar water to get the appropriate carbonation in the bottles. This way, you can prevent gushers or even bottle bombs.(Yes, it's dangerous! Champagne bottles burst at around 40000 hPa, that's almost 20 times the pressure of your car tires!) A picture of our bottle washer.

Mtalus (author)t.rohner2009-07-20

Washing soda from the laundry aisle (basically automatic dishwasher detergent without the other stuff, scent etc.) works almost every time. Used hot it will eat through most labels and gunk in no time. Your hands too for that matter so wear gloves or be prepared for the Mrs. to jump a mile, and not in a good way. My bottle washer is cobled together and grungy looking. I'm a little jealous and maybe even embarrassed now.

brucedenney (author)t.rohner2009-06-18

Cool bottle washer... I made elderflower cordial, took pictures so should really make and instructable out of it.

t.rohner (author)brucedenney2009-06-19

Is cordial the same as syrup? If you intend to do a instructable, you shoud hurry up. Otherwise the flowers will be berries... and then it's elderberry cider. In higher elevations (1000m above sea level) they are still flowering.

I used to work for a cheap boss who would buy product in bottles that were packaged together and had "buy one get one free" stickers on them. He had us cut them apart and then use orange spray (the kind that you use to "freshen up" a bathroom) to get the stickers off. If you spray them and then give it a couple of seconds, they slide right off. It beat the heck out of picking each one off with our fingernails. The spray has to be made with real orange oil, or some other type of citrus, though.

dustinandrews (author)2009-05-28

I learned a trick from wine making when starting yeast. Instead of sugar and water, use warm grape juice. The yeast really loves it. I always use it now when I make bread. The small amount of grape juice may color (or in your case colour) and slightly flavor your beer though. An alternative is to boil some raising for a few minutes in water then use that when it cools to "not to hot". (100F, 37C) This trick is really good when the yeast is a little old and slow to start in sugar and water. P.S. I think baker's yeast makes yuchy beer and wine. Spring for some of the good stuff or try a "lambic". :)

o hey by the way what are the proportions that you use when you are using the grape juice? Sounds pretty cool though think that i might try nettle and grape juice flavour.

Flavour! don't forget flavour :) thanks for the warm grape trick :D

parodoxicalplay (author)2009-08-27

Hey. How much yeast do you need exactly in proportion to the sugar? Is it necessary to start the yeast and is this what is fermentin so should i use a lot or is it the nettles or are they just for flavour? I know these are probably silly questions just found an entire brewing kit in the attic looks about 30 years old so im going to start and why not start with nettles. Really great post though:)

christdonnelly (author)2009-07-28

Looking for bottles? I was drinking my way to 40 pints in a hurry so I could bottle my first batch of Homebrew... then I said to myself,"self" why don't you just take a bin to the local pub that serves 500ml cider, and tell them to put them in your bin instead of recycling them. With the smoking ban all over britain, you don't even get any fag ends in the bottles anymore. Magners labels come off really easy with a hot water soak.

twocvbloke (author)2009-07-21

You know, I've never thought to use Nettles to make beer, not that I've ever made beer, but this is an interesting idea, I've never tasted nettles, but they are a nemesis of mine since I fell into a patch of them when strapped into a pushchair when I was very young, I'll never forget that!!! :S Still, if I ever get the chance to start making beer, I'll have a go at is for sure... :D

msw100 (author)2009-07-15

Yes let it ferment before you bottle, this is my kitchen after opening a bottle had to call fire service

tichus (author)2009-07-09

I ate boiled nettles when I was at survival school (AF), they were good, only lacking a little salt. - I didn't know you could make beer from them. I can't wait to try this. It almost looks like you could make an indian saag curry with the leftover greens to go with the beer.

zabdiel (author)2009-07-09

Great instructable. Just looked up Hemlock - it'd be difficult to mistake for nettles. I've seen it growing loads of times and not realised what it was.

polalbert (author)2009-07-05

Yes, you could try to siphon all the beer off in one or more containers, without the yeast, cleaning your yeast away from your fermentation container, and do the first 3 days of the fermentation in this one without yeast and with your added sugar, and then you could bottle...

CaptainLepton (author)2009-05-28

A simple bubble lock would do also for releasing gas. Cheap from a brewing supplier or make your own from tubing and clips if you are desperate.

Or a balloon with pin holes poked through it, stretched over the opening of the bottle. When the gases inflate the balloon the pin holes open, letting the gas escape.

It is an option but it can leave you with the taste of latex in your brew. Better to pay a small amount of money at a brewing suppliers for a cheap reliable plastic airlock if you can get hold of one.

ladylissa (author)christzilla2009-05-28

I never thought of that! Thank you!

YopTodd (author)christzilla2009-05-28

that is genius!

Dream Dragon (author)2009-05-28

Sterilisation; Is pretty important, but glass or glazed ceramic "hot out of the Dishwasher" will be adequately sterile for almost all purposes (including many surgical procedures but that's beyond the scope of this article). As is freshly ironed linen incidentally, (except the bit where you put your grubby little fingers) if you want something traditional to filter your mash with. Lemons; Also juice really well if you Zap them in a microwave for a few seconds. Too long and they'll be too hot to handle but just warm and the juice will bring with it some of the lighter oils and thus more of that lemony Flavour. 70 Degrees and no thermometer? There's a couple of "tricks" for getting the temperature right that I found out when I was researching Medieval Technology. Firstly for plain water, one part cold water to 3 parts BOILING water, will put you close enough for most purposes. I now use this trick to get my water just right for making coffee. Even more interesting is the one "By Observation". When the steam reduces to the point that you can see your reflection in the surface of the liquid it's actually surprisingly close to the right temperature. Obviously you need to be in reasonably well lit room or out doors, and you may need to calibrate or "get your eye in", so a little testing and practice is advisable but I was really surprised at how accurate these techniques were. Not so surprising I guess when you figure that they've been making beer for a lot longer than they've had thermometers.

brucedenney (author)Dream Dragon2009-06-18

Working without thermometers sounds really interesting. 70C is far too hot would kill any yeast 25C is my target temperature although I think it would be okay in between 20C-30C. If you had 3 units of just thawed water at 0C (ice) and 1 at 100C (boiling) then the average temperature when they mixed would be 25C The observation method sounds excellent, I will have to have a go with it.

xilefakamot (author)2009-06-17

We have literally thousands of nettles in our garden... how long do you think they would last as beer?

RTyler7071 (author)2009-06-02

Yes you can use the "American Nettle" and it does work. For some added fun, you can use jalapeno's, I use it in sweet mead, very good! You can also use spices instead of hops. Most traditional scottish ales use almost no hops and mostly spices. Biggest thing to remember is to use lactose "milk sugar" for sweetness in finished beers and meads as it does not ferment. As someone stated 3/4 cup of sugar in 3 cups boiling water till dissolved. Let cool to room temp, then add to 5 gallons for bottling. Most beers ferment out in 5-7 days. Any longer and the lees (expended yeast) will give it off flavors. You should rack the beer to another container if you are going to ferment more than one week. I have brewed beers that take months to age. You should use beer yeast for beer. You will get a much better taste than bakers yeast and you can salvage the yeast from bottled home brew to continue using it down the road. I expect a good ale yeast would work. Beer brewer for 8+ years

RTyler7071 (author)RTyler70712009-06-02

Sorry, not clear, use 3/4 cup of regular sugar, not milk sugar for priming.

Calorie (author)2009-06-01

I had my first experience with nettles when I moved to York. I was out in the countryside riding a bike. There was a horse that came near the fence and I stopped to pet it. There was a lot of green weeds around and I gave a cursory check for insects that may bite. I walked into the area and good God almighty my legs felt like they were being stung by dozens of wasps. It hurt so much, my skin to crawls with memory after four years. I had been introduced to nettle. My English flatmate said that they didn't hurt really so I made him a gentleman' s bet (what other kind of bet can you make in Uni anyways?) We found a bush full of nettles. He walked through it several times with no apparent ill effects. I dared him to take a branch and slap it against his shin. That did it. He winced quite a bit, yelped obscenities and limped away. I felt vindicated at one level, yet said that I had inflicted pain on him. It all evened out in the end after I bought a beer for him.

chynnakat (author)2009-05-31

another positive to using's a natural anti-histamine. So anyone with allergies...enjoy the benefits of nettle beer. It's also a fantastic ingredient (for the same reason) in loose teas. I'm not aware if the fermentation process in beer- brewing has any negative effect on these benefits.

wgrube (author)2009-05-29

Stinging nettles are fantastic, you can eat them, you can make a insect repellent, a liquid fertilizer, they correct the soil pH and you can make beer with them!!! I live in Brazil, where Urtica dioica was introduced by european immigrants, but a native Urtica has almost the same properties, I've used the as liquid fertilizer and it worked great, also as insect repellent. I wonder if they would work to make beer... Hope so! I'd love to make my own beer of nettles. I'll also try to get some U. dioica to have them in my garden. This instructable is great! I can't wait to try it out.

Solenoidclock (author)2009-05-29

I dare you to make a beer with a small amount of henbane in it.

About This Instructable




Bio: I was something once, now I am not.
More by brucedenney:British - Stinging Nettle BeerTempeh
Add instructable to: