The nettle beer came down with an acetobacter infection. This is not a surprise because fermentation conditions almost encouraged it. When I made the beer, I was out of carboys after making a Newcastle Brown ale clone. Under the circumstances I used a 5-gallon bucket. Normally these vessels can make great beer, however none of my buckets have lids. I improvised a “seal” with some plastic wrap. The beer was okay when I added dry hops to it a week after fermenting and I suspect opening the seal introduced the infection.
In the interest of Science I have a few ounces of the witch’s brew in my cup and take furtive sips to get a taste for how the beer may have turned out. My eyes are a little watery. It isn’t balsamic strength, still very much a vinegar. All the alcohol became acetic acid but there is a underlying malt taste and something else which I can only attribute to the nettles. Sandwiched between the initial vinegar sourness and the finishing vinegar bite is a vegetal-peppery note that reminds me of the brew day. Hop bitterness is non-existent and there is a softness to it that you don’t get when consuming straight vinegar, which I do on occasion.
It was an experiment that failed. The follow-up experiment will improve it. Things I will change:
- A proper lauter – I strained my grains through a colander.
- Closed fermentation.
- Nettles at knockout instead of the boil.
Most teas are steeped and adding leaves to boiling water can bring out bad flavors. Doing a full boil, then adding the nettles after removing the flame will better simulate this.