Nettle Beer

There are a lot of nettles in the wood and we spend a fair bit of time trashing them and the brambles in the spring and autumn. This year with the demijohns lying fallow I thought I'd put them to good use and have a go at making nettle beer. Its proved eminently drinkable, more cider flavoured than beer and very refreshing when served chilled in the sun.

It was backbreaking work picking the nettles but it was a rare sunny day so good to be outside. We filled a big sack; about 3 kgs.

The little one and my wife were staying on in Devon so I had to cart the nettles on the train back to London and then across town on the tube.  I felt a bit of a wally and the weird cabbagey smell of the nettles emanating from my sack became more obvious in the concreted world of London.

Back at home I filled every saucepan with water and, lacking marigolds, had to use sandwich bags to lift the nettles into the pans. The smell did not improve as the nettles cooked down.  Unlike cider they need some extra ingredients to make a drinkable brew so I had to add lemons and tartaric acid (apparently normal people use this for baking, I found a tub in the mother-in-law's cupboard) plus a tonne of sugar and some brewers yeast. The fermentation was very enthusiastic as the liquid was still warm from the pan. I did not have the hydrometer in London so no way of knowing how strong it is.

After a week of happy bubbling I bottled it. After a further week it was enthusiastically fizzy but still a bit sweet. An additional week rendered it drier and more drinkable and stronger. The only downside was avoiding the smell when you took your first sip!

Recipe: 2.5kg nettles, 1.5 kg suger, 9l water, 5 lemons (rind and juice), 50g cream of Tartar

1. Boil the nettles and water for about 15 mins then let it cool (stinks, water goes brown)
2. Put it into demijohns, add the other ingredients and the yeast
3. Cover with tea towel and leave for 24hours (best to sit it on some newspaper as there will be mess)
4. Put an airlock in and leave for a week while it bubbles away merrily
5. Bottle and leave for a further 2ish weeks
6. Imbibe


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