British - Stinging Nettle Beer

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I was something once, now I am not.

Intro: 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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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    85 Discussions

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    JaimeL5

    3 years ago on Step 8

    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?

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    masoon

    8 years ago on Step 5

    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.

    4 replies
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    brucedenneymasoon

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 5

    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.

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    masoonbrucedenney

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 5

    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.

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    brucedenneymasoon

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 5

    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.


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    masoonbrucedenney

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 5

    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.

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    masoon

    8 years ago on Step 5

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

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    brucedenneymasoon

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 5

    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

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    PerfectionLost

    8 years ago on Step 7

    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.

    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)

    2 replies

    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.

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    west909

    9 years ago on Step 8

    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.

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    doobuzz

    9 years ago on Introduction

    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!

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    willayldoobuzz

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.

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    t.rohnerdoobuzz

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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...

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    brucedenneydoobuzz

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.

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    cepartin

    9 years ago on Step 3

    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.

    1 reply

    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.