Making Wild Nettles Beer

Yep, I made nettles beer!  We were drinking this very tasty beverage just two weeks after our afternoon foraging for stinging nettles.  If you haven’t read any other home brew posts, I just want to remind you that I am a complete novice, and have just figured out how to do this on my own.  Having some country brewing books is very handy (this is the one we have) and of course being able to look things up online is invaluable.  Still, this process was very, very simple.  It helps that I have a wild yeast that I grew at home, one that is very eager and assertive.  This makes everything faster, more exciting, and fairly unpredictable.  You could definitely order a commercial yeast to use, follow a recipe, and get much more predictable results– either way is great, the important part is to get out there, pick the free and health-enhancing nettles, and start brewing!This is what I did.
I took the big pile of nettles we had gathered, and rinsed them several times.  I used gloves and tongs, and washed them in a bucket outside.  I also poured some distilled vinegar in the tub to let them soak in, to help remove any unwelcome residues.  After that, I set up two pots of water on the stove.  I blanched the raw nettles in the first pot until they had wilted and lost their sting– about 30 seconds– and then put them in the big pot that I would use to brew my beer wort (tea, basically.)  I blanched the nettles in batches, and once they were all in the big pot, I let them simmer for 20 minutes.Once the wort was brewed, I poured the tea out into the big bucket I had used.
Ok, let me stop right here and tell you that I sterilized everything.  This is important.  You have to sterilize the bucket, the bottles, the funnel– anything that will be touching the brew after it’s been boiled.  It’s not hard– you can just buy home brew disinfectants that are made for this purpose.  I tend to be a bit relaxed about this kind of thing in general, but I do sterilize.
Alright.  To the bucket of tea, I added brown sugar and lemon juice.  That is all!  No grains, malts, hops, etc.  It is very simple.  The basics you need for any home brew are an herbal agent that offers the basic flavor and medium to brew in, and then sugar for the yeast to eat, and then some acid to balance things out.  (If you were using a fruit with some nice acid in it already, then you wouldn’t need to add any.)Here’s the official ingredient list, with measurements:
750g nettle tops
4 litres water
450g brown sugar
Juice of two lemons
You can also check out instructions for making it with commercial yeast from respected forager John Wright here.  And I have put together a few links to brewing equipment you may need.  You may be able to find these things on craigslist too, and keep in mind that you can re-use everything over and over again, once you have a few basics.
I let the wort cool in the bucket.  Some people let the mixture stay in the bucket for a few days before decanting into the demijohns.  I got impatient and also didn’t like the plastic smell of the bucket, and wanted to get it out of there sooner.  To make up for doing this early, I had to rack it again a few days later, since keeping it in the bucket would have allowed more sediment to settle and not make it into the jugs.Once it was cool, I put the liquid in the demijohn.  There was extra, which I just poured into another glass bottle.  I added the yeast culture, which was basically the dregs of an apple cider I had made a couple weeks before.  This culture has lived many lives already, starting last summer as a strawberry kvass which picked up the cider yeast strain when I just covered it with fabric rather than putting an airlock on it.  Since then, I have used it to make the blackberry “cider,” ginger beer, pear cider, and then most recently, apple cider from locally pressed apples.  I always save some of the liquid and powdery stuff on the bottom to add to my next brew, and it has served me very well, so far!  For basic instructions on getting a wild yeast of your own, look here.Alright, so I added the yeast culture, and then put the rubber cork and airlock on it. I brought it inside to put by our radiator, where the temperature is not at all hot, but just warmer than the rest of our drafty house.Within three days, the yeast was going kind of crazy.  It kept overflowing, out through the airlock.  I realize now that I probably should have left a lot more room between the liquid and the top of the bottle.Since I already had to rack it again, this wasn’t a big deal– I just sterilized a new fermenting jug and syphoned it out.  With all of the overflow, I was able to also fit the liquid in that extra bottle, so it was all consolidated.I saved the last inch or so from each.  Initially, I thought I would save this for another ferment, but the plastic lid kept blowing off of the jar, and so we drank that bit.  At this point, the beer was definitely developing a beer-y flavor, but was just sweeter than we wanted.  It was pretty promising, and there were clear hops-like flavors that we got excited about.About a week later, it was ready to decant into bottles.  The timing was based on wanting more fizz and fermentation, but not wanting the mixture to run out of sugar to metabolize.  So bottling it when it was just a little sweeter than I wanted, with some fizz going and a nice flavor was about right.  After siphoning it into bottles, I put those back over by the radiator for three days, allowing the last bit of sugar to be turned into more alcohol and carbonation.  We took the last bit of beer, leaving the lees (yeasty sludge)– some of which I have already added to my next brew, and put it into a couple of wine bottles and corked them.  Because they contained more yeast culture than the rest, they developed really quickly, and became super fizzy within a day or so.

As I said at the beginning, just two weeks after picking the nettles, we were drinking the beer.  And I wish you could come over and try it, because it is really, really good!  Both Jeff and I were surprised and impressed by the good flavor and the very beer-like character, all without any of the usual beer ingredients.  Nettles totally work– and gave it a flavor similar to an IPA!  And using brown sugar added some extra dimension.  I totally recommend it.  So, this is what it looks like:If you look closely, you’ll see that there is still yeast in the bottle, it just settles to the bottom.  It’s nice and fizzy!I think we may go out foraging again this weekend, so we can start another batch!  I also wanted to mention that after I cooked the nettles, I strained them and pureed them to use for cooking.  We made a really nice Nettles & Roasted Garlic dip (like a traditional spinach dip) and I plan to use the ones I froze to make a nettles soup, and maybe a nettles version of saag paneer.  Here are some more nettles recipes.  So this experience of making nettles beer provided a really pleasant afternoon out gathering, plenty of greens to eat, and a wonderful beer!

Have you ever brewed your own beer or wine?  Do you think you’ll give it a shot?

Did you like this post? Share it and pin for later!

Making Wild Nettles BeerPAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

, , , , , , , , ,

70 Responses to Making Wild Nettles Beer

  1. Hazel March 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Wow! Fantastic. Definitely going to forage more nettles this weekend!

    I picked up ‘A Cook on the Wild Side’ by HFW in a charity shop yesterday, which has some very intriguing recipes in (and a photo of a very young Hugh on the front!)

    • Ariana Mullins March 25, 2013 at 10:41 am #

      Hazel, I will have to check out that book– I am not sure I’ve seen it yet. So fun! By the way, have you ever visited River Cottage?

  2. mossgrownstone March 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Wow! Now I really can’t wait for the snow to melt. I’ve begun experimenting with honey mead and I will surely have to try this out too.

    • Ariana Mullins March 25, 2013 at 10:43 am #

      I skipped the mead-making, which is supposed to be the best introduction to home brewing– but I definitely intend to do some this summer, finally. You should definitely make this– it was not difficult, and has been such a great beverage. Of course, we are almost out now, and wishing we had made a bigger batch– but the nettles will be much thicker once the snow melts, so we’ll do more next time!

  3. Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Do you think that pregnant woman would be ok to drink this since it is nettles? Also what about children? I am looking forward to trying this

    • Ariana Mullins March 25, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Only if you think it’s OK for pregnant women and children to drink alcohol. This is an alcoholic drink, stronger than a regular beer, make no mistake!

  4. Anonymous March 24, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    can you use breewers yeast

    • Ariana Mullins March 25, 2013 at 10:46 am #

      You should get a proper beer brewing yeast. You can find it at a brewing supply store, or online. It’s super cheap. Here’s one from amazon: http://amzn.to/X3qKAm .

    • johnvile September 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      Gervin Ale Yeast gives nettle beer a great beer-y taste it also helps give a bit of head retention.

      P.S. @Ariana Mullins. you really should “invest” in a Hydrometer, random alcohol content brewing soon gets annoying

  5. Heather March 25, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    That sounds awesome! I think my husband would love to do this! I would love for you to share this at what i am eating (or drinking in your case!) http://www.townsend-house.com/2013/03/what-i-am-eating_22.html

  6. Cait Throop March 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Very intriguing!! We are certainly going to try this in the summer when our fields have nettles (so many nettles!). I haven’t eaten them either…though I love spinach so might try that too! Thank you!!

    • Ariana Mullins March 26, 2013 at 10:54 am #

      Cait, youwill want to pick them by early June, when they are at their best. Don’t wait too long, they will be tough and less flavorful after spring. Also, just pick the top 5 leaves or so.

  7. Little Mountain Haven March 25, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! we have an abundant supply of wild nettle along the creek bank, this is very detailed and informative, I will definitely be trying this!

    • Ariana Mullins March 26, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      Oh, you are welcome! I am so glad you’ll give it a shot!

  8. Anonymous March 26, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    What a wonderful post and site! I have access to a LOT of nettles. I even had some come up in my garden and just left them so I could eat them. My family thinks I am crazy.

    Do you think that the sediment at the bottom of a home brewed kombucha would work for the yeast?

    I am excited to try this!

    Thanks for the post.

    Rachelle

    • Ariana Mullins March 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

      Hi Rachelle, I’m glad you’re eating your nettles! I wouldn’t use the kombucha sediment. Instead, I would recommend that you buy some yeast– it is super cheap. I had someone else ask me the same thing yesterday. If you are in the US, here’s some you can order easily on amazon: http://amzn.to/X3qKAm . If you are in the UK, then you can pick some up at Wilkinsons or local health food shops.

    • Anonymous May 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Thanks for the reply. My nettles are coming up fast!

      Rachelle

  9. ChantalMM March 27, 2013 at 4:29 am #

    How long does the beer last after you bottle it? What happens in terms of fermentation and change of taste once you bottle it?

    • Ariana Mullins March 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      ChantalMM, once you bottle the beer, you want to give it a bit of time to develop carbonation. But I wouldn’t keep it for more than a month or two in the fridge. I did this with a bottle of the apple cider, and it turned into something more like apple champagne– it tasted GREAT, but I lost most of it in an explosive fountain when I opened the bottle. Your beer will keep fermenting at a slower pace. This is another reason to use swing-top (grolsch-style) bottles, so they don’t explode with the building pressure. The swing-top caps can release tiny amounts of pressure over time, to keep that from happening.

  10. Chef Z March 27, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    This is so fascinating! It combines my love of home brew AND of nettles!
    In the future, you can control the bubbly overflow (called “krausen”) by making a makeshift blow-off tube with your airlock. Just purchase a couple feet of 3/8″ tubing and stick it right on to your center pillar on your airlock (after sterilizing, of course!) Stick the other end of the tube into a jug half filled with water, making sure the end is submerged in the water. That way, your krausen is diverted, or “blows-off” into the second jug and not all over your airlock! Once the yeast calms down a little, you can remove the tube and use your airlock as normal. :-)
    Thanks for the great idea! And if you ever need some home brew info, let me know!

    • Ariana Mullins March 27, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

      Thank you for the great tip! It worked out OK this time, since I was planning to rack it twice anyway, but that is very helpful!

  11. Lisa Lynn April 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    This looks really interesting Ariana! I love anything DIY and all natural…right up my alley. :) Thanks for sharing this on Wildcrafting Wednesday! Hope to see you again today!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/04/wildcrafting-wednesday-14.html

  12. Jerica @ Sustain, Create and Flow April 4, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    Oh how I love this post so! We have been going nettle crazy, but I hadn’t thought to make beer from them. Sounds like a weekend project for Dear Husband and I :) Cheers!

  13. Winnie April 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    I LOVE this! I need to find some nettles :)

  14. Michelloui | The American Resident April 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Thought this was such a fantastic use of nettles (which always make me think of Britain even though I know they’re not exclusive to Britain!) that I put it in the BritMums Expat Roundup this month :)
    http://www.britmums.com/2013/04/expat-round-up-love-where-you-live/
    )
    Feel free to take the link out, just wanted you to know where to look if interested!)

  15. rabidlittlehippy April 23, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    I have heaps of dried nettles as I drink them as a tea and so, after reading this post I gave it a go. I had NONE of the equipment and only a bag of brewers yeast (nondescript) from a health shop but I have bubbly beer in bottles now and a second attempt on the go now too. I had no lemons for that batch though so I’m “sperimenting” with apple cider in there. I’ve never brewed before but I’m keen to get my hubby of bought beers and onto something home brewed. I can’t wait to do some more experimentation and I reckon we might crack open a pint tonight. :)

    • Ariana Mullins June 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      Awesome! Good for you for going for it and using what you have. I’d love to hear how it came out for you…

  16. Vickie April 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Wow, this sounds great. Only thing is – I hate nettles. I fell in a patch when I was a child and have hated them ever since. But now that I hear you can make beer – well maybe I will just have to change my thoughts on nettles! I will show this to my hubby – maybe he will try it. Thanks for sharing. Found you on the Farmgirl Friday fest.

  17. Katja R. April 26, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    I found you through ‘Homestead Survival’. Stinging nettles are a fantastic food. I used to buy them when I lived in Sarajevo. They are a tasty food in their own right.
    They grow all over the place in Europe.

    I don’t see them growing on the West Coast. Do they?

    • Ariana Mullins June 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

      Katja, I would google that… I lived in So California and in Oregon, and didn’t come across them. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t there– just that I wasn’t walking around the areas where they are most likely to grow. I hope you can find some!

  18. Rich R April 29, 2013 at 2:03 am #

    I didn’t notice a beginning S.G.

    We’re new to beer making and like to go by-the-book. Do you know what your starting specific gravity was?

    Thanks much

    • Ariana Mullins June 10, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

      Hello Rich, I did not check specific gravity. We have the gadget to do so, but I am kind of the opposite of you– less by-the-book and more by-the-seat-of-my-pants. So sorry!

  19. Meredith May 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    That’s so amazing! I had no idea you could make beer from nettles! We have yet to brew our first batch of beer, have only made cider so far, but I can’t wait to start!

    • Ariana Mullins June 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      I hope you do try it, Meredith– we were so pleased and surprised by how well it turned out!

  20. The Entwife May 12, 2013 at 2:25 am #

    I wonder if you could do this with water kefir somehow. Thanks for sharing at Wildcrafting Wednesday.
    Jennifer

    • Ariana Mullins June 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      Hi Jennifer. I think you could make a fermented tea beverage this way with water kefir, but I would use a cider yeast instead for a real country beer.

  21. Leah May 22, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    This is fantastic! I am type 1 diabetic and my choices for low carb beer are dismal. Would this beer have many carbs in it after the yeast eats up the brown sugar? And could I add any spices?

    • Ariana Mullins June 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

      Hi Leah,
      You could definitely add something like ginger, or coriander seeds. It would be worth a try! As for the sugar content, it’s so hard for me to know how much carbohydrate is left. You have some control over the process, and can let it get very dry. I would give it a shot, since it’s not grain-based and you are more able to taste the sugars left over, as opposed to non-sweet starch left in traditional beers. Good luck!

  22. Jedediah August 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    I’ve just drunk the first bottle of the nettle beer I made with a friend after this recipe. I wasn’t sure if it would change anything that our nettles were already in full bloom, but apparently, that doesn’t matter. Here’s how it looked after a day and here’s the finished beer, two weeks later.

    I grew the yeast on a couple of overripe strawberries in a glass of water and it worked just fine. We’ve kept the dregs, right now the yeats gets to feed on some gooseberries to keep it alive, until we’ve figured out what to brew next. So thank you for that recipe, I doubt I would have tried stinging nettle beer of all things (and as a first homebrew experiment no less) if I hadn’t found it.

    • Ariana Mullins August 14, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Jedediah, thanks so much for reporting back! I am so glad you went ahead and tried it, and using strawberry for the yeast culture is perfect. Are you seeing a new growth of nettles in your area? I had thought the season was about over, since they had gotten to be about as tall as me– but there are new ones growing now, so I think we’ll take advantage!

  23. star whites August 26, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    I would like to extend a few words on the working progress of laundry equipment manufacturers Hyderabad  in India.

  24. John coakley August 29, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Hi Ariana,

    I also brewed some nettle beer. I used the river cottage recipe from John (what’s his name?)

    I brewed it about 12 days ago and bottled it last Friday. I’m going to sample a bottle/ bottles tomorrow night so ill let you know how I get on;)

    Some quick questions before i go:
    How strong does the beer get?

    Should it be used within a month of initial brewing to prevent it from spoiling?

    When should i stop releasing the pressure in the bottles?

    And is ut ok to store it at room temp?

    Love the blog.
    Thanks
    John

    • ariana March 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

      Hi John, sorry I’m so late in this reply! The strength of the beer actually depends on the yeast. Since mine was a wild culture, I didn’t know what it would do. It ended up being *very* strong, but that is not typical of most wild yeasts. The beer will not spoil over time, but if there is more sugar to eat and it hasn’t reached the alcohol level that will cause the yeast to die, then you could lose a lot of the beer to the “geyser effect” when you open it. Storing in the fridge will slow this process down, so you might want to do that– but it’s OK to store at room temp, in terms of spoilage. How did yours turn out?

  25. Jessica @ Delicious Obsessions November 19, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    VERY Cool! Thank you for sharing this week! :)

  26. Dre Horton January 2, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    Wow, this is so exciting! I used to be an avid brewer and still have all of the equipment, but as I can no longer eat (or drink) grains, I thought my brewing and beer drinking days were over. Thank you!

    • ariana March 17, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      GREAT! I hope you enjoy this beer!

  27. lexie February 6, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    my husband and i have been brewing beer for 5 years now and have never heard of anyhting like this; no grains, no hops, skips so many steps. we can’t wait to try it out!

  28. kelsfranz March 9, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    Hey! I’m curious to know… as I’m new to beer brewing and it is brewing with plants like nettles that has me inspired, if you did anything between siphoning your nettle beer into bottles from your demijohn… I’m using to mixing in such items as corn sugar or honey to “carbonize” regular beers in my newness to brewing, so I’m guessing that the brown sugar or raw sugar used in the nettle beer recipe is enough to create a carbonated nettle beer after a week or so of the yeast breaking it down? No need to introduce anything else? Thanks!

    • ariana March 17, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      Hi there! I did not add anything– the trick was to bottle it just before it tasted as dry as I wanted– meaning that there was some residual sugar for the yeast to eat. I have done a lot more brewing after this project in the last few years, and there is definitely room to tweak as you go. I have added sugar to brews that got dry before I wanted, so it’s really up to you. But for this one, I have not needed to.

  29. Michelle Cusick March 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    And to think….i’ve only been using nettles to make pasta!! We’re going to try our hand at this beer this summer.

  30. Swamp Pixie (@PixiesPocket) March 20, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Punk Domestics re-shared your post about nettles beer yesterday just after I got word that a local lady is allowing people to come dig up her wild nettle plants this weekend…what synchronicity! :) I’m now following you, and I shared this post of yours in my most recent blog post about the beauty of Spring Equinox. http://pixiespocket.com/2014/03/beauty-spring-equinox.html

    • ariana May 20, 2014 at 9:38 am #

      So glad you could get a nice supply of nettles! I hope your beer turned out well, and thanks for sharing!

  31. Tara March 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    I want an excuse to grow nettles, and my husband wants to make gluten free beer at home. :-D

    • ariana May 20, 2014 at 9:38 am #

      Sounds just perfect to me!

  32. meredithskyer May 18, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    This is amazing!!!! I found your site randomly on pinterest and I’m already in love with it. Last year we made wine from wild grapes we picked in our local city park and it is amazing. really need to try this nettle beer. I’m bookmarking your site and will definitely be back to visit. If you’re interested, I live over at ImaginAcres blog, we run an urban farm and do a lot of foraging as well. So glad to meet you!

    -Meredith

    • ariana May 20, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Hi Meredith– glad you found this! Lucky you, finding wild grapes– that is fantastic! It’s always great to meet other urban foragers– we need to bring back traditional foodways.

  33. Ian August 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    Hi Ariana. This nettle beer looks awesome, I have an abundance of nettles near me so really want to give this a go. One question though. How much yeast did you add and how much will the amount differ if I don’t use wild yeast ?
    Ian

    • ariana August 27, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

      Hi Ian, I added probably 1/4 cup of the yeast mixture, but this is really flexible because yeast will reproduce quickly. If using commercial yeast, you can use a packet or about a teaspoon or so.

  34. Heather December 3, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    I may have missed it, but how much of your wild yeast did you put in your cooled wart? I have cultured ginger bug and naturally fermented hard cider dregs—- which one should I use for the wild yeast?

    • ariana December 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

      I would use the hard cider dregs, Heather, and a tablespoon or so should do it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. How We Buy Our Food-- Without Going to the Supermarket! | And Here We AreAnd Here We Are - December 31, 2013

    […] way home from work; we keep chickens who lay our eggs; we garden, and we forage.  We brew our own beer and wine, ferment vegetables, and we make pretty much everything we can from scratch.  All of […]

  2. Foraging for Nettles: It's Fun, I Promise! | And Here We AreAnd Here We Are - January 25, 2014

    […] Stings were minimal, and we all had such a relaxing afternoon.  I started the process for making Nettle Beer as soon as we got home, and it’s bubbling away in a demijohn nearby as I type this.  […]

  3. The Beauty of Spring Equinox | Pixie's Pocket - March 20, 2014

    […] so I am going to get a few plants and use it to make nettle beer! Here’s a sample recipe from And Here We Are. I’ll be sure to document and share that experience with you all as I […]

  4. What to Do With Stinging Nettles | And Here We AreAnd Here We Are - March 25, 2014

    […] all of that water you have left in your blanching pot is nettles tea!  We use it for Making Wild Nettles Beer, and we have also made wine with it.  You can also just drink it. Some people ferment it slightly […]

  5. 15 Edible Plants to Forage in Your Own Back Yard | And Here We AreAnd Here We Are - March 31, 2014

    […] time to harvest stinging nettles and use them in a whole bunch of different ways, including making nettles beer.Ground Elder This is by far the most prevalent plant in my back yard, and tends to strike fear in […]

  6. Nettle and Ramps Pesto (Dairy Free) | - March 31, 2014

    […] can be made from the plant, dried or fresh (it’s nice mixed with mint). I’ve heard of nettle beer. You can use it as you would spinach, for example my mom makes a mean lasagna with […]

  7. Foraging DOs and DON’Ts - May 19, 2014

    […] Making Wild Nettles Beer […]

  8. Weed Invasion!! 10+ Things You Can Do Once Weeds Have Taken Over Your Garden. - Little Mountain Haven - November 4, 2014

    […] the Montana Homesteader did or Dandelion Lotion Bars like the Nerdy Farm Wife. You can even make Wild Nettle Beer or Dandelion Wine. Check out some burdock recipes […]

Share your thoughts with us...