Posted: Thursday 15 March 2012
by Kate Bradbury
Nettle beer is apparently easy to make. Like soup, it can be made from a fairly standard recipe, used for a variety of beverages
Every year I celebrate spring by gathering nettle tips and making soup. I love the rich, earthy flavour of nettle soup, but I always find it a bit heavy – not quite befitting a spring dish. So this year, wanting to try something new and inspired by my partner’s new-found enthusiasm for home brew, we embarked on a new challenge: nettle beer.
Nettle beer is apparently easy to make. Like soup, it can be made from a fairly standard recipe, used for a variety of beverages (we followed a recipe from River Cottage’s John Wright). So, rather than fetching onions, a potato, nettles and cream, we bought copper finings, beer yeast, two lemons and some cream of tartar.
We gathered nettles at the local cemetery. They were still very young, but we just nipped the first two or three leaves off each plant, leaving them to continue growing. It’s important to only take the tips – not just because they are young and fresh (and therefore more palatable), but because nettles form an extremely important habitat for ladybirds, moths and butterflies. Last weekend we found hundreds of seven-spot ladybirds waiting for the first aphids to lay eggs on the leaves. In summer, it’s worth checking the foliage for the caterpillars and chrysalides of small tortoiseshell, red admiral and peacock butterflies.
Armed with a bag of leaves, we set off home. The first job was to clean them, then they were boiled with copper finings for 15 minutes, while our new home brew kit was sterilised. We strained and decanted the liquid into a bucket with some cream of tartar, and then waited an age for it to return to room temperature. Then the yeast and lemon juice were added. The concoction resembled a thin, nettle soup.
It takes just three days for the brew to ferment. We bottled it up on Wednesday, into green beer bottles scavenged from the local recycling bin (washed and with their stickers removed they look like new). It should be ready to drink in a week.
17/03/2012 at 07:44
There is one plant called white dead nettle that is a first class early flower for bumblebees and I know you like bumblebees!
19/03/2012 at 11:02
I certainly do! And dead nettles are lovely. I'm hoping some self-seed into my garden!
20/03/2012 at 22:34
Hi Kate,I have dug out three large bag's of nettle's growing in the wrong place,I have left the clump growing round my compost bin's for the wind life they are out of sight of Mrs Oldchippy so she can't comp lane.
21/03/2012 at 08:27
Oh that's good. It sounds like Mrs oldchippy likes things ship-shape. A clump of nettles around your compost bins will work wonders.
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03/04/2012 at 08:49
think i might be making this beer...