Nettle Beer – Guide for Home Brewers

nettle beer

Written by Josh Charig

11 April 2022

Nettles are the worst of all weeds. They spring up everywhere, are incredibly difficult to get rid of and they sting like hell. Why must plants fight back!? These nasty nettles can be turned into alcohol though, so perhaps they’re not so bad. 

There are many nettle beer recipes online, but they’re made by people who don’t homebrew. Whilst that’s fine, I’ve found through my own experimentation that having homebrewing equipment and ingredients to hand makes the process a lot easier and allows for a wider range of flavours.

What is Nettle Beer?

Technically it’s not beer at all because it doesn’t contain any malt. It is possible to add nettles to a regular brew but more on that later. It’s nettles, sugar, water and something else to balance the flavours and add complexity. Many recipes suggest lemons, but as homebrewers we have access to hops and a wide range of flavourful yeasts.

How Can I make it?

To make four litres of nettle beer, you’ll need:

  • 5 litres of water
  • 1 kg nettles
  • 750g sugar
  • Hops
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Yeast
  • Small demijohn & airlock

This recipe scales very easily, so if you want to make 20 litres of nettle beer just multiply the above by five.

Start by collecting the nettles. Using thick gloves (I’d recommend marigold gloves), pick the nettle tips and young leaves. 1kg is a lot of nettles so bring a big bag to put them in. Once you have your nettles, place them in your brew kettle along with the water and bring to the boil. I’ve made nettle beer in a Grainfather as well as my DIY HERMS. 

As the water is heating up, add the sugar and yeast nutrient and stir until dissolved. Boil for 15 minutes adding the hops (see below) and cool using your counterflow chiller, immersion chiller, or usual wort cooling method.

Once cool, transfer to a sanitised demijohn and install the airlock. Similar to wort production, everything the nettle beer touches post boil needs to be sanitised. Aerate well and add the yeast, then ferment.

A note on hops: nettle beer has the same hop rate as beer. That might seem incredibly vague, but it depends on what you enjoy. For a hop heavy nettle beer use a high amount of American hops like Citra, Cascade, Simcoe etc. For a beer which will be balanced and support the nettle flavour more go for Fuggles, Saaz, EKG etc. Citrus hops will contrast the nettle flavour and earthy/floral hops will support the nettle flavour.

The weedy patch is your oyster. Experiment with different hops and timings. Try first wort hopping, or dry hopping, or both. Hops added at the beginning of the boil will add some bitterness (not as much as a 60 minute boil), whilst hops added at the end will impart flavour and aroma.

It doesn’t stop at hops either, adding the juice and/or skin of lemons and oranges will add more dimension. Whatever other flavours you add to beer, try it in nettle beer!

Beer yeast gets most of its nutrients from the malts, and with a good mash, high cell count and healthy yeast it will ferment beer quickly. Nettle beer is just nettles and sugar therefore lacks the nutrients yeast needs for a healthy fermentation. Without it, the fermentation may take a very long time.

Any beer yeast can be used, although take into account that kveik requires a lot of nutrients compared to normal beer yeast. Saison or wheat style yeasts go really well as they produce a lot of spice and clove flavours which will go well with the flavour of nettles.

Nettle Beer Recipes

Here are a couple of nettle beer recipes. Just follow the method above.

This recipe brings out the nettle flavour:

  • 5 litres water
  • 1kg nettles
  • 750g sugar
  • Yeast nutrient
  • 15g Fuggles
  • 15g Saaz
  • Belle Saison yeast

Add the water to the kettle and set to boil. Add the nettles, sugar, and yeast nutrient and stir so it’s all dissolved. When the water gets to a boil add 5g each of Fuggles and Saaz. After 15 minutes turn off the heat and add the remaining hops. Cool and transfer to fermenter. Add the yeast and ferment at 25°C.

This recipe contrasts the nettle flavour:

  • 5 litres water
  • 1kg nettles
  • 750g sugar
  • Yeast nutrient
  • 25g Centennial
  • 25g Citra
  • US-05 yeast

Add the water to the kettle and set to boil. Add the nettles, sugar, and yeast nutrient and stir so it’s all dissolved. Boil for 15 minutes then switch off the heat and add the hops. Cool and transfer to the fermenter. Add the yeast and ferment at 19°C.

What Does It Taste Like?

Nettles have a very earthy and herby flavour. To me they taste almost like olives, but I’m not sure this is a common descriptor. To understand the flavour, pick a few nettles and make a tea with them by boiling them in water and drinking. This will give you a good idea of flavour. As the main fermentable is sugar, it creates quite a dry beer.

I’m Making Beer With Malt, Can I Add Nettles?

Yes. The amounts will of course be different depending on what you’re after. If you want nettles to be front and centre then in a 23 litre batch stick with 1 kg of nettle tips 15 mins before the end of the boil, along with some bittering hops at the beginning. Ferment with saison or wheat beer yeast.

Nettles can also be added to a wide range of different beer styles, going best with the earthy and floral English style ales, peppery and spicy saisons, and even in lagers to give them a unique dimension. Amounts will vary depending on the style and what else is being added in the boil, so start conservatively and work from there. 

Have you made nettle beer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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