How to make nettle beer

Writer and wild brewer Pascal Baudar shares his recipe for making nettle beer.

Nettles

I sometimes enjoy going back to my Celtic roots and making some medicinal herbal beer. Aside from making a somewhat pleasant drink, stinging nettles Urtica dioica are a great source of vitamin C and apparently help alleviate rheumatic pain.

It’s a Belgian dream – a beer with a lot of health benefits. Different brewers use different methods for this recipe. What follows is what I do.

Basket of foraged nettles. © Michael Piazza/Getty
Basket of foraged nettles. © Michael Piazza/Getty

Take care

As the name suggests, stinging nettles can sting and cause swelling and itchy skin! The stem and leaves have tiny barbs to protect the plant. These contain a mix of formic acid, histamine, acetycholine and serotonin. Wear gloves when picking and handling them. 

Nettle beer 2
Advertisement

You Will Need

  • Fresh nettles (454-860g)
  • Water (3.78 litres)
  • Brown sugar or molasses (340-567g)
  • Gingeroot - cut finely or grated (14g)
  • Lemons (3)
  • Dandelion leaves - optional (56g)
  • Cream of tartar (28g)
  • Yeast - beer yeast or wild yeast

Step 1

Bring the water to a boil and add the cleaned nettles. Boil for 20 to 30 minutes, then add the brown sugar, ginger, lemons (juice them first, then throw them in the brew as well), dandelion leaves (if using), and cream of tartar. Boil for another 5 minutes.

Stinging nettles. © Lars Mensel/EyeEm/Getty
Stinging nettles. © Lars Mensel/EyeEm/Getty

Step 2

Remove the pot from the heat and place it (with the lid on) in your sink filled with cold water. Change the cold water in the sink two or three times until your beer is lukewarm (around 21°C).

Step 3

Strain into your fermenter (bottle, pot, or whatever you’re using), add the yeast (wild or commercial), and place an airlock (or clean towel) on top.

Step 4

Ferment for 3 to 4 days for 340g sugar or 7 to 8 days for 567g sugar (counting from when the fermentation is active, usually 8 to 12 hours after adding the yeast), then bottle. I don’t use any priming sugar.

The fermentation is quite active after bottling so I like to use a recycled plastic soda bottle to monitor for any excess carbonation and release it if necessary by opening the top slowly.

Most people drink nettle beer young, after a week or so; it’s not meant to be aged, as the flavors will be altered, and not in a good way.

Coloured bottles and jars. © Ryan McVay/Getty
Coloured bottles and jars. © Ryan McVay/Getty
Advertisement

Pascal Baudar is an author, wild food researcher, traditional food preservation instructor, and wild brewer living in Los Angeles. Pascal offers wildcrafting and food preservation classes through his website.

Pascal Baudar © Mia Wasilevich

This is a recipe from The Wildcrafting Brewer by Pascal Baudar, reprinted by arrangement with Chelsea Green Publishing.

The Wildcrafting Brewer