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British - Stinging Nettle Beer

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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.
 
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Step 1: 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.



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masoon4 years ago
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)  masoon4 years ago
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.
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)  masoon4 years ago
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.


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.
masoon4 years ago
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)  masoon4 years ago
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
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:

http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter11-4.html.

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.
Its Giggles5 years ago
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)
brucedenney (author)  Its Giggles5 years ago
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.
west9095 years ago
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.
doobuzz5 years ago
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 doobuzz5 years ago
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.
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:
http://www.happymountain.net/

No affiliation with the author from my side of the Atlantic...
brucedenney (author)  doobuzz5 years ago
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.
cepartin5 years ago
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.
You might be able to get those labels off with acetone (nail polish remover). It will dissolve all kinds of plastic and glue.
brucedenney (author)  discontinuuity5 years ago
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.
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.
DSCN0125.JPG
Mtalus t.rohner5 years ago
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.rohner5 years ago
Cool bottle washer... I made elderflower cordial, took pictures so should really make and instructable out of it.
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.
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
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:)
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.
twocvbloke5 years ago
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
msw1005 years ago
Yes let it ferment before you bottle, this is my kitchen after opening a bottle had to call fire service http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01116/peru-foam_1116107i.jpg
tichus5 years ago
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.
zabdiel5 years ago
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.
polalbert5 years ago
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...
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.
Jerrycan_type_cheap_fermentationVessel.JPG
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.
I never thought of that! Thank you!
that is genius!
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