grandpa’s nettle beer


Nettles are a super food. Not only rich in nutrients they make an excellent cooked vegetable or added to a potage or soup. They are a great, cleansing tea. The sting is an old gardeners remedy for rheumatism. The boiled leaves can make a wonderful green dye, although you still have to ‘fix’ the colour with a mordant. It also makes some of the finest cordage (and given half a chance textiles too). It also makes THE BEST foraged beer.

This recipe makes 1 gallon (just multiply for larger quantities – if you have larger pans then I would go for 2, 3 or more gallons because the extra effort is minimal over and above 1 gallon):

  • 1 kilo of young nettle tops
  • zest & juice of 2 lemons
  • 25 g of cream of tartar
  • 500g of demerara sugar or honey
  • 1 gallon of water (or birch or sycamore sap)
  • Some yeast
  1. Pick young nettles (before flowering or they contain cystoliths that can irritate the kidneys of some people) – to avoid this you can p[ick young or continually ‘mow’ an area of nettles and keep harvesting them and cutting them back to prevent flowering/seeding.
  2. Wash the nettle tops
  3. Boil them in the water (or birch or sycamore sap) and simmer for 15 minutes (it can be done in two batches if you have small pans)
  4. Meanwhile – juice and zest the lemons and mix in the cream of tartar and the sugar (or honey)
  5. Strain the boiled nettles to separate the broth into a clean (sterilised) fermenting bin.
  6. Dissolve in the sugar/juice/tartar mix
  7. Leave to cool to room temp
  8. Then add yeast (if you have taken a small cup of the broth and mixed in the yeast to get it started) – then mix it in and give it a good stir. Use a clean stirrer.
  9. Cover with cloth and leave in moderately warm (ie not cold) place for 4-6/7 days.
  10. Clean (sterilise) bottles and tops.
  11. Place a half level teaspoon of sugar into each bottle (will help give the nettle beer that fizz due to secondary fermentation). Fill bottle to within an a couple of inches of the top. But leave a little space for the build-up of Co2.
  12. Cap and leave in a dark, warm (ie not cold) place for a week.
  13. The longer you leave it (2+ weeks to a month or so) then better it will taste and the more compacted the sediment will be.
  14. Chill well before opening. Decant carefully to leave sediment behind.



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