Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide

Making Nettle Beer

Urtica dioica

I've never really got on with making alcohol. As much as I like processes (I tend to think that people are either predominantly process or goal orientated), whether it is wine or beer, I seem to lack the knack of transforming weeds into a fermented intoxicating liquor. Perhaps I am just not dedicated enough to making and drinking alcohol.

Give me the task of making a wild dessert, or creating a sweet cocktail and I'm all over it, with pleasing results. Ah, I suppose I can't be great at everything.

Where I fail, thank goodness others succeed at making wild drinkable goodies. I've benefited from a few too, I remember about 20 years ago, my boyfriend at the time making the first batch of nettle beer I experienced and loving the result. Actually, I was lucky to get even a sip as he fell head over heals for this spring tonic. Light, refreshing and mildly alcoholic, it disappeared in a matter of days...

Making Nettle beer is easier, quicker and less technical than making making other beer and wines, and having had some success myself, I wanted to share the delights of brewing these greens so you too can enjoy this spring drink.

Nettle beer has been made for hundreds of years and is traditionally drunk in spring when the nettles are at their best. Have a go yourself;

Nettle Beer Recipe

Light, refreshing and mildly alcoholic, don't expect this spring tonic to hang around for long. You will need a few days patience while it ferments though, just a few days...


  • 3 litres water
  • 400 g nettle tops
  • 12 g cream of tartar
  • 350 g unrefined sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp yeast

Pour the water into a large pan and bring to the boil, add the nettle tops, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain off the liquid into a large bowl, or saucepan and discard the cooked nettles. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and cream of tartar and leave to cool. When the liquid is luke warm, add the yeast, cover with a muslin cloth or similar and leave to ferment for 5 days.

Making nettle beer (Urtica dioica)

Siphon the beer into sterilised flip top bottles and drink soon, or keep in a dark, cool place. Nettle beer has a reputation of exploding (as it keeps on fermenting), so flip top bottles will at least save you from shattering glass. Otherwise, just drink soon.

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