Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

author
NiborTheGreat made it! (author)2013-05-30

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

author
jonnybo111 made it! (author)2013-02-20

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

author
lit_elephants made it! (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.

author
bashikruski made it! (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

author
tdawber-mandeno made it! (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

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2011-07-03


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

L

author
tdawber-mandeno made it! (author)tdawber-mandeno2011-07-04

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

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2011-07-04


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

L

author
tdawber-mandeno made it! (author)tdawber-mandeno2011-07-04

thanks

author
tdawber-mandeno made it! (author)tdawber-mandeno2011-07-04

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

author
horsebones made it! (author)2011-06-17

How long did this step take?

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2011-06-18


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

author
standacrazytaco made it! (author)2009-06-26

is this the stuff that stings

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-06-26

Yes it is! L

author
standacrazytaco made it! (author)standacrazytaco2009-06-28

oh cool i never knew that stuff was any good

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-06-28

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

author
yellowcatt made it! (author)yellowcatt2010-10-17

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.

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2010-10-17

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

L

author
Raendin made it! (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!

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2010-06-18

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

L

author
Culturespy made it! (author)2010-06-15

Do you think this recipe would work with borage?

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2010-06-15

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

L

author
catcannine made it! (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????

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-11-07

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

L

author
xanxor made it! (author)xanxor2010-04-24

dandelions are carcinogenic...

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2010-04-25

And your source for that is..?

L

author
wenpherd made it! (author)2009-07-01

where do you get nettles

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-07-01

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

author
pancho del rancho made it! (author)pancho del rancho2009-09-16

were i live there common weeds to but weed

author
jbarber made it! (author)jbarber2009-09-04

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!

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-09-04

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

author
jbarber made it! (author)jbarber2009-09-04

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!

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-09-04

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

author
msw100 made it! (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

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-07-22

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

author
Mtalus made it! (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.

author
shoehornteeth made it! (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? :)

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-06-03

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

L

author
shoehornteeth made it! (author)shoehornteeth2009-06-04

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).

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-06-04

I'd like to see that. L

author
shoehornteeth made it! (author)shoehornteeth2009-06-21

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.)

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-06-22

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

L

author
shoehornteeth made it! (author)shoehornteeth2009-06-22

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

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-06-22

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

author
LILhazY made it! (author)LILhazY2009-06-04

doz it taste nice ?

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-06-04

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

author
angrynerd made it! (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?

author
mrthumbtack made it! (author)mrthumbtack2009-06-02

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.

author
lemonie made it! (author)lemonie2009-06-01

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

author
Kiteman made it! (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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