Friday, 29 November 2013

Stinging Nettle beer

   This is my first foray in to the art of the homebrew, I've dabbled with Sloe gin and fruit-flavoured vodkas before, but never created my own alcohol using only sugar, yeast and weeds.  Don't let the word 'beer' fool you, this isn't like a lager or ale you'd get from the shops, more of a fizzy, boozy Elderflower cordial - really very refreshing, a great summer tipple!

Gloves are obviously a must when picking Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica), but use plastic ones, as you'll still get stung through cotton or material gloves, for a number of days afterwards actually, as the sting has a nasty tendency to hang around. Pick only the tips of fresh nettles - the top 2-6 leaves, depending on age.

Infuse the nettles in boiling water until cool

Stinging Nettle infusion / tea

This recipe is from Andy Hamilton's book 'Booze For Free', which is a must-have for those interested in creating weird and wacky beverages - from Horseradish vodka to Sumac lemonade, this book is all you need.  The ingredients listed below are straight from the book, but for my brew I adjusted the quantity of all the ingredients proportionally to how many Stinging Nettles I had collected, if I remember correctly it was around ⅛th of the stated volume.


- 22 litres of water
- 2kg (4 carrier bags full) of nettle tips
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Juice of 2 oranges
- 3kg sugar
- 100g cream of tartar
- ale yeast

You'll need:

- Large saucepan / cauldron
- Fermentation bin (I used a sterilised bucket)
- Muslin / cheesecloth
- Siphoning tube (I didn't use one)

Boil all the water.  Place clean nettles into a fermentation bin and pour the boiling water over them. Allow to infuse, cool, and then strain back into the cauldron/pan.  Add the lemon and orange juice, sugar and cream of tartar.  Heat gently and stir until the sugar has dissolved - do not boil.  Pour back into the fermentation bin and leave to cool to room temperature before pitching the yeast.  Cover tightly with a muslin cloth and leave in a warm place for three days.  Siphon/pour into bottles and leave to condition for a week before drinking. Serve cold.

After pitching the yeast

Cover with a cloth for three days

Cloudy brew before the silt settled

As I didn't siphon the pitched yeast mixture that had sat for three days, the silt got stirred up when poured into the bottles - after a day or so it'll settle and your beer will turn clear like the picture below.

Beware - this stuff is explosive!  It's OK of you're opening a kilner jar of the stuff, but if you've bottled in a bottle with a narrow neck it acts kind of like a Stinging Nettle roman candle, covering the roof in precious booze. 


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