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.
Nettle tea helps promote kidney function, reducing the risk for kidney stones and gout. I get attacks of gout when I am not careful what I eat and many of my family members have kidney stones. I do not drink a lot of tea, and rather than changing my habits (putting me dangerously close to sounding old) I thought it more appropriate to get nettles elsewhere. Enter homebrew.
The cup of nettle tea I made to get a feel for the flavor tasted vegetal and slightly peppery. Few people, me included, want to drink beer that smells of boiled vegetables. My thinking went to covering it up with a healthy dose of American hops and some big malt. That was yesterday and I didn’t have any Amarillo on hand… or yeast for that matter. The nearest LHBS is a day away by UPS. Because I was being interviewed for a homebrewing segment on the local news there were timing constraints. The beer had to be rolling at 2:30 when the reporter arrived. Not wanting to pay for overnight 10 AM delivery shipping I placed an order and crossed my fingers.
I should have known better. UPS usually delivers to my house around 7 PM. Not to worry, I wasn’t really sure what kind of beer I would make today. Grabbing the first bag of hop pellets from the freezer, I settled on German Pearle. Next I went to the larder and ripped open new 55-lb bags of Vienna and Munich malt. Here’s what happened:
3 gallons of Some Nettle Beer
- 4 lbs Vienna
- 2 lbs Munich
Doughed in 2 gallons of 160° F water (mostly RO with some tap water for “minerals”). The mash hit 157° F for 40 minutes. Using an ad-hoc brewing setup I batched sparged through a colander and collected a little more than 3 gallons of 10% brix sweet wort. So far so good. The reporter arrived right on time as the wort was starting to boil.
- 1 oz 8.1% AA Perle 60 minutes
- 6 oz dried loose leaf nettles 60 minutes
I wasn’t sure how much nettles to add – most of the recipes you find online measure by the fresh bucket or the peck. They went in until I had enough to almost overflow my kettle. By then the wort had a sharp nastiness to it signaling to me that it was a good time to stop.
We conducted the interview while the nastiness boiled. Right now I have just about 3 gallons of 13.6% brix wort cooling slowly as I wait for UPS to deliver some Safale US-05 yeast. The slow cool means that the resulting beer will have a lot of DMS, but it is a veggie beer to begin with…. Oh yeah, batch sparging with a colander causes a lot of splashing and hot-side aeration. Maybe my nettle beer won’t start.
Looking forward to improving on this recipe with a little more preparation.
This post’s inspiration comes from HopWild. It’s audience participation time and the question of the day is this; Where do you find the inspiration for the recipes you brew?
Most frequently I make beers “to style”. That is, I pick or design recipes based on historic beer styles. My focus is generally on brews rarely available in my area. The last such beer was a Belgian Triple and the next one will be Düsseldorf Altbier. Researching styles and their individual brewing techniques adds to my enjoyment of the hobby. I page through back issues of BYO and Zummurgy, and read the Classic Style book if it is available.
Less often I devise an experimental, outside guidelines batch. My inspiration in these cases comes from an ingredient that I want to spotlight or become more familiar with. The nettle beer is a recent example. Some of these recipes even make it into the brewing rotation. I would like for the nettle beer to become a regular recipe, but after tasting it today it will need much work.
Finally, I enjoy making traditional seasonal beers. The only current example of this is a barleywine that has been conditioning since May. I will tap that one on my birthday in late October.
I’d like to hear your ideas. Share them in comments (or a blog of your own).