Introduction: How to Make Nettle Beer

Picture of How to Make Nettle Beer

Nettles (Urtica dioica) are in season at the moment, last year I was too late for this but today I'm making nettle beer with the first green growth. There are a lot of these free weeds around me, and dandelions (Taraxacum officinale).

Also brewing about the same time was brucedenney

There are many recipes which use nettles, but as far as I've looked they recommend young nettle tops, i.e. the tips of new growth.

I am working from this recipe

Nettles: ~2Lb (1Kg)
Dandelion root: 1x large-ish
Sugar (refined cane, white): ~1Lb (0.5Kg)
Ginger (dried, powdered): a large spoonful
Citric acid: ~1/2 tsp
Wine yeast compound: a sachet.

Big pan
Fermentation bucket with lid.
Ex Newcastle Brown beer-bottles

Strictly speaking this may not be "beer":
OED: n.1 a an alcoholic drink made from yeast-fermented malt etc., flavoured with hops.
Although it goes on to say:
2 any of several other fermented drinks, e.g. ginger beer.

Step 1: Collecting Nettles

Picture of Collecting Nettles

This week I noticed new nettle growth around my cottage. Remembering that I'd planned to make nettle beer last year but was too late in the season - this year I made a point of collecting some early.

Choose fresh, young and clean plants and only take the tops of (like picking tea). I used a pair of scissors and a glove because these plants are covered with irritant-filled hypodermic needles.
It's fairly obvious but - avoid plants which are harbouring insects or spider-nurseries, look diseased or eaten, are contaminated with soil, slug-slime or bird-turds etc.

You will need a lot, I collected two bags which was about the 2Lb the recipe requires. While I was at it I dug up a dandelion root to add in as well for bitterness.

Step 2: Mashing

Picture of Mashing

Clean the dandelion root thoroughly and slice thinly.
Boil 2Lb (1Kg) of nettles in a gallon of water (4.5L) with the dandelion root.
I had to do this in two halves because I don't have a big enough pan.

Strain the liquid into a fermentation vessel, in this case a polypropylene bucket.
Dissolve 1Lb (0.5Kg) sugar in the liquid, I put some back in the pan and heated.
Add a heaped-desert spoon of powdered ginger and 1/2 tsp citric acid (or use the squeezings of a lemon)
Allow the mixture to cool, below 30oC (90oF)

Step 3: Fermentation

Picture of Fermentation

When the liquor is cooled enough sprinkle dried yeast compound on the surface.
In a little while the yeast will grow and convert the sugar you added to alcohol (ethanol). This is evident by foam and "brown stuff" on the surface .When it's done it will sink and the brew will look inactive.

Step 4: Done

Picture of Done

When the fermentation is complete, add 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar to each pint bottle, and fill to the neck. Leave these until they look clear. I have crown-caps, a crown-capper and 40 pint bottles, but screw-top soda bottles would also work.
I never got these to clear completely (impatiently drank them after ~week).

The taste was a bit 'green' and a bit 'ginger', not unpleasant but not fantastic either.

L

Comments

NiborTheGreat (author)2013-05-30

Why wine yeast? Surely a top fermenting beer yeast would have been preferred? Also any idea of strength?

jonnybo111 (author)2013-02-20

Is this the same stuff you brought to the instructables weekend???

lit_elephants (author)2012-07-18

How do you know when the fermentation process is complete? Mines been sitting for a while and I'm not sure if is done yet.

bashikruski (author)2012-02-18

try brownseed paspallum seeds or any Paspalum type seeds at the top the one i have had the most succes with in brewing oh and good idea too

tdawber-mandeno (author)2011-07-03

Have you tried doubling it with apple juice (natrul organic or cheapist with out preservitives or added anything (granny smith juce is best!!))???
im looking foward to doing this next apple sesson. On the farm in Waitomo the nettle grows around the caves and tomos (tow-mows). All of native nettle is near deadly it is called onga onga (on nga on nga), but our sub spieces of nettle is safe :)
thanks thanks thanks thanks

lemonie (author)tdawber-mandeno2011-07-03


I only did this once, but thanks for the suggestion.

L

tdawber-mandeno (author)lemonie2011-07-04

thanks you are so awesome
what seson is it just to double check

lemonie (author)tdawber-mandeno2011-07-04


I'm summer now, it would have been spring then.

L

tdawber-mandeno (author)lemonie2011-07-04

thanks

tdawber-mandeno (author)lemonie2011-07-04

o and our near deadly tree nettle (onga onga) is all year round

horsebones (author)2011-06-17

How long did this step take?

lemonie (author)horsebones2011-06-18


I forget, but is does depend a lot on temperature, water, yeast etc. (which is why I didn't say)
A few weeks I think.

L

standacrazytaco (author)2009-06-26

is this the stuff that stings

lemonie (author)standacrazytaco2009-06-26

Yes it is! L

standacrazytaco (author)lemonie2009-06-28

oh cool i never knew that stuff was any good

lemonie (author)standacrazytaco2009-06-28

Well it's one of those olde-fashioned "has health-benefits" things, I just thought I'd try it to see what it was like. And it wasn't that bad. L

yellowcatt (author)lemonie2010-10-17

Another use for nettle leaves - layer with filo pastry, crumbled feta cheese, a bit of parsley and mint. Roll into 'cigar' shapes and deep fry. This is Sigara Borek a classic snack from Turkey.

lemonie (author)yellowcatt2010-10-17

That's interesting, but they're out of season now.

L

Raendin (author)2010-06-18

But what if you replace sugar to light malt extract? Need 0.625 kg extract instead 0.5 kg of sugar (1:1.25 proportion). Add some hops. Not more than an ounce. Wine yeast change to beer yeast (top fermenting). Get real nettle beer. Bottled it and add some sugar to each bottle (9 g. to 1 liter proportion). Have a nice brew!

lemonie (author)Raendin2010-06-18

That sounds interesting. I think I'm too late for nettles now though.

L

Culturespy (author)2010-06-15

Do you think this recipe would work with borage?

lemonie (author)Culturespy2010-06-15

My vague recollection of reading C C J Berry last weekend says "I think so"

L

catcannine (author)2009-11-06

 well ive lived in scotland all my life and the only i ever new nettles culd do was sting u, and im sure u kno how anoying it can be walkin in scotland with all the nettles with shorts on lol. but i never never u culd actually make an alchoholic drink from them. i mean, how does it taste????

lemonie (author)catcannine2009-11-07

It tastes like step 4 - not worth really worth doing as it is, unless you perceive health benefits.

L

xanxor (author)lemonie2010-04-24

dandelions are carcinogenic...

lemonie (author)xanxor2010-04-25

And your source for that is..?

L

wenpherd (author)2009-07-01

where do you get nettles

lemonie (author)wenpherd2009-07-01

Where I live they are common-weeds ("everywhere") L

were i live there common weeds to but weed

jbarber (author)lemonie2009-09-04

Weeds are just plants we have yot to find a purpose for. Nettles are a powerhouse of nutrients. We make a decoction by pouring boiling water over and steeping several hours A Sante!

lemonie (author)jbarber2009-09-04

"Tea" then? I'll try that next year. L

jbarber (author)lemonie2009-09-04

The "tea" we make also contains oat straw and tops, licorice root, alfalfa, and stevia (for sweetness), lemon balm and others. My wife took a yearlong herb class and makes different decoctions and ointments creams etc. It is very interesting work. Some herbs are purchased and others we wildcraft along streams or in woods (not near roads, might be sprayed or otherwise contaminated). It's great fun for us and the dog loves it!

lemonie (author)jbarber2009-09-04

Could you show it in an instructable next time you do? L

msw100 (author)2009-07-22

You can also make soup with these nettles not sure how but suppose to be full of iron and good for anyone with an iron deficiency

lemonie (author)msw1002009-07-22

I didn't know that, but since there are still a lot I might look into it. L

Mtalus (author)2009-07-21

I use nettles and dandelion in my brewing almost every year. Nettle beer is said to be good for arthritis and dandelion root for diabetes. I can see how the hike and fresh air might be good for arthritis, but how an alcohol free diabetic would be helped by watching me drink a dandelion brew is beyond me. Cheers.

shoehornteeth (author)2009-06-03

This type of thing is exactly why I love this site. I never would have thought something like this was possible. I don't think I have any nettles on my property though. (The one weed that isn't growing right now.) I've tried dandelion wine before. What other wild plants can I make alcohol with? :)

lemonie (author)shoehornteeth2009-06-03

There are lots of wild brew recipes, most tree fruits for example. See what else there is on http://www.selfsufficientish.com/?

L

shoehornteeth (author)lemonie2009-06-04

I think I'm going to try to make sassafras beer, even though it might be mildly carcinogenic. I might try dandelion root for bitterness and maybe even wood sorrel for some acidity (some recipes I've seen call for lemons, but they're not growing in my yard).

lemonie (author)shoehornteeth2009-06-04

I'd like to see that. L

shoehornteeth (author)lemonie2009-06-21

I'm drinking the first mug of the sassafras beer now. It's better than I imagined. It's flat because I haven't bottled it for secondary fermentation yet, but still very good. It's slightly tangy, very mildly bitter, and has the aftertaste of rootbeer. Not bad for an experiment. (I'll let you know tomorrow if any dangerous bacteria contaminated it.)

lemonie (author)shoehornteeth2009-06-22

Thanks, I should think that you haven't brewed pathogens if it tastes good.

L

shoehornteeth (author)lemonie2009-06-22

It didn't make me sick... just tipsy.

lemonie (author)shoehornteeth2009-06-22

Well that's what it's supposed to do I guess - successful! L

LILhazY (author)lemonie2009-06-04

doz it taste nice ?

lemonie (author)LILhazY2009-06-04

Step 4: "the taste was a bit 'green' and a bit 'ginger', not unpleasant but not fantastic either." Worth doing, but I'm not sure whether I'd do it again without changing the recipe. L

angrynerd (author)2009-05-31

I love the idea. Using native and wild plants for our own purposes really makes you feel good. Couple ideas though. 1. You have to be careful with dandelions. They have both diuretic and anti-diuretic properties. I believe that the flowers are anti-diuretic and the roots are diuretic. We're actually talking about diarrhea and constipation here, not just kidney action. The leaves are definitely safe. 2. I would highly recommend filtering this brew with at least a coffee filter. Nettle is covered in silica dioxide (glass) fibers. Drinking without filtering would be like drinking bits of fiberglass. Also, has anyone done anything like this with oat? I've been thinking of using the wild oat on my property for some purpose. Any suggestions?

mrthumbtack (author)angrynerd2009-06-02

Actually in most cases, eating silica is ok. I mean, I wouldn't eat fiberglass but they use food grade silica dioxide as an additive to act as a flow agent in powered foods.
http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/gen01/gen01308.htm

Silica is however, very bad for your lungs. Silica crystals are too small for the lungs to expell, which cause the lung to form nodules around the silica particles impeding air flow.

lemonie (author)angrynerd2009-06-01

Hi, thanks for the comment. The filtering is done with settling, how effective it is I don't know... L

Kiteman (author)2009-05-30

How long should the fermentation (step three) take? Does further fermentation happen after you add more sugar to the bottles?

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