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Nettle beer

Nettle beer
  • Drink
  • easy
  • Makes 6 750ml bottles
  • 30 minutes, plus foraging, brewing and bottling time

PT30M

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Nettles tend to be regarded with scorn and fear. We often leap out of their way on walks in the countryside and parks, and for good reason too. Childhood memories of mottled pink rashes on legs, formed in the summer holidays, have put paid to that. I have to say though, now that I am all grown up, I am rather fond of the vicious, stinging little blighters. Sadly, this newfound respect is not down to any botanical or historical education. No, this fondness comes down to the fact that I can make beer from them. Lovely, lovely, beer.

Saying that, the term 'beer' is used fairly loosely when it comes to nettle beer, as traditional recipes don’t include hops (or grain for that matter). The resulting beer that you get from home-brewing with nettles tends to be sweet in flavour and more like cider in structure. But once fermented, bottled and cooled down, it is a glorious thirst-quencher.

I quite like the fact that I can spend a day in the garden in the sunshine, and rather than head for the green bin to dispense with all the weeds and trimmings, I can tip a large proportion of them into a stock pot and boil them up for a refreshing hooch. If I get really organised, I can even grab a bottle of nettle beer out of the fridge afterwards to quench my parched throat, thus completing a marvellous circle. Why, it’s almost enough to make you want to cultivate and cover your whole garden in stinging nettles.

The kids don’t seem to be too keen on that suggestion though. Perhaps I sent them off foraging for nettles at too young an age. You see, at the age of three they were the perfect height for plucking the newly formed tops off – don’t worry, they always wore gloves, though I think making them wear shorts was probably a bad idea. Their poor knees!

The real secret to successful home-brewing, in my own honest opinion, is to make sure that all the equipment you use is scrupulously clean. Pots, demijohns, bottles and tubes to siphon should all be sterilised. Forget that and you might just head towards a sad, vinegary demise, instead of nettle beer happiness.

Ingredients

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  • Nettle beer

  • 1kg nettle tops
  • 4l water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 750g of sugar
  • 25g of cream of tartar
  • 1 sachet of ale yeast
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Method

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1
First, give the nettles tops a thorough wash in the sink and then drain. If you have a salad spinner, that is quite useful for ejecting any creepy crawlies that may be lurking in the leaves
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2
Next, bring the water to the boil in a stock pot and throw the nettle tops in. Boil hard for 15 minutes, then carefully strain into another stock pot
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3
Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and cream of tartar until everything has dissolved, and leave to cool to room temperature
nettle beer
4
Pitch (or sprinkle) the ale yeast over the surface of the nettle brew, then cover with muslin cloth or a tea towel and leave overnight
5
The next day, take a demijohn bottle and pour in the brew using a funnel. Top with a bung and a water airlock then leave to ferment and bubble for up to 6 days
6
Siphon into clean brown bottles, cap them and then leave to chill in the fridge for another week before drinking
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