Think stinging nettle and you think weed,well nettles are much more than just a weed. From ancient times, nettles have been used as a source of fiber – in Denmark, burial shrouds made of nettle fabrics have been discovered that date back to the Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC), in medicinal preparations, it can be used for the relief of arthritis,lumbago,rheumatism, lethargy, coma, paralysis, and even typhus and cholera. They can also be used as a food source.Of course, the best use for nettles is in making ale.
Like mead recipes,there are hundreds to choose from, so like the mead, I mixed and matched and made my own recipe, although what it’s going to taste like remains to be seen (or tasted even).
The first thing that’s needed of obviously, is nettles. There’s several different types in the countryside, there’s what’s called dead nettles and stinging nettles. Stinging nettles are the ones needed for ale.
When the nettles are in flower it’s easier to tell them apart.
White Dead Nettle.
Purple Dead Nettle
If there’s no flowers, run your fingers over the leaves, you’ll soon know if you’ve got stingers or not. However, having just said this you don’t want to collect stinging nettles that are in flower, you just need the top four or five leaves of the new growth.
Most of the recipes don’t give a weight requirement, they just say a carrier bag full to make 1 gallon.
It didn’t take too long to fill a bag, I filled two in about a half hour, each one weighed about 640 gms.
You’ll also need
Cream of Tartar
I’ve also got a bag of hops in the pic,(more later).
First step, boil the nettles and let simmer for 20 mins.
While they’re simmering put the sugar and cream of tartar in the fementing vessels.
Cream of Tartar (is not the stuff you put on fish, that’s tartar sauce) has many applications in baking and cake making. It comes from potassium hydrogen tartrate or potassium bitartrate and is a fine, white, odorless powder. It is a by-product of wine production and is formed from the sediment left over in barrels after the wine making process. I’ve not been able to find out much about what it does in brewing, the best I’ve found is that it helps keep the head on the beer, makes the drink more syrupy and gives it“mouth feel”, whatever that is, (seems to be an American phrase).
When the nettles have simmered for 20 mins, strain the liquid off into the fermenter
to dissolve the sugar and cream of tartar. Then add the juice of two and a half lemons, the acid in the lemons help regulate the acidity of the brew.
When the liquid had cooled to 23 deg C the yeast was added and the fermenter covered, to be left for a week, then racked off into demi-johns. I want to try something different so after three day I added some hops to one of the brews.
This is a process called ‘dry-hopping’ and adds aroma to the brew as opposed to taste which is what adding hops at the boiling stage does and to be honest as the nettles were simmering they didn’t smell too good.
Well in three weeks I find out what the smell and taste are like.