There are quite a few recipes about for this early summer drink but this is the one we have perfected over the years.
Picking the nettles might cause a few stings but it is well worth it. This drink really is the taste of summer in a glass!
You can make smaller quantities but this is the smallest batch we ever make – it gives 8 pints of beer. Feel free to increase quantities in proportion for larger volumes.
- 1 kg of nettle tops from young nettles. They get a bit tough as they get older and the stings get more troublesome too! Be sure the nettles are washed thoroughly.
- 4 litres of water
- The juice of 1 Lime. In our opinion this is essential. It gives the beer a fresh, sharp taste and really improves the fizz in the beer too – although we have no idea why!
- 200 grams of sugar
- a sachet of brewers’ yeast
- 50g of cream of tartar
To make the Nettle Beer:
- Boil up the water in some kettles and pour it over the nettles in a large steel pot or plastic drum.
- Leave the nettle tea to stew and cool to body temperature – this will probably take about an hour.
- Pour the mix through a strainer into another large pot – try to remove all of the nettle bits.
- Turn up the heat under the pot of nettle tea and as it heats dissolve the sugar. There’s no need to boil the mix as you’ll have to let it cool down to body temperature again before the yeast is added.
- When the sugar/nettle mix has cooled down stir in the cream of tartar, the lime juice and the yeast. We think it’s easier to get the yeast in if you mix it with a little tepid water in a glass or mug first.
- Clean and sterilise the brewing vessel (ideally a large plastic drum). Pour in the beer mix and cover. You’ll need a lid that keeps insects out but it doesn’t have to be air tight.
- Leave the beer to brew for about 2 days – it’s ok to lift the lid during the brewing process to check on progress. You want to leave the brew until the fermentation has slowed down and the yeast has turned most of the sugar into alcohol. Watch out for the bubble forming to slow right down – that’s normally the right time to move to the next step.
Ideally, you want to get all of the clean beer out from under the fermentation ‘scum’ and from over the dead yeast mix in the brewing vessel. The easiest way to do this is to syphon the beer from the vessel into bottles – having a helper at this stage in the process makes life a LOT easier!
You can improve the fizz in the beer by adding a LITTLE sugar to each bottle before you cap it. Go easy with the sugar! We once had a lire bottle explode on us because we added too much sugar to the bottle and the in-bottle fermentation created too much gas and too much pressure for the bottle to handle!
The beer is ready to drink after a couple of days but it’s best to leave it for a week or so.
To get the best from your beer pour it into a pint glass over lots of ice and a sprig of mint.
Nettle beer is deceptively easy to drink but remember it can be about 4 – 5% proof so you will suffer the next day if you enjoy too many!