Nettles and Dandelion Flower Beltane Blessed Home Brew Beer
Nettles (Urtica dioica) is absolutely an amazing superfood and a tonic for all ages and conditions. Keep your eyes open for it growing wild. I 'sort of' cultivate it as well by planting in wild places on our property. Be warned, it has mint-like tendencies toward being invasive so take a moment to think about where she can run wild and will it affect your neighbors? Not all people love Nettles but I do believe if they get to know this one, most cannot help but fall in love!
Nettles is so mineral rich that it benefits from a long steeping period (8 to 12 hours) before straining to extract all the goodness. Think of it this way, we move rocks out of the garden beds. It takes a bit more time for 'minerals' to move out of plant material too. Fresh nettles provides the best flavor for fermentation, although you can definitely make beer from dried nettles. However, be careful. While it is pretty much impossible to make a too-strong herbal infusion from the fresh herb due to the water contributed by being fresh, you can overdo it with the dried. Measure well. Fermentation, like baking and cheese and bread making, asks this of us. As we practice we get that intuitive knowing more developed.
I'm coming from the perspective that you have either fermented before or are of the jump in to try new things anyway type and will do a bit of research first. Cleanliness is very important. I usually re-cycling flip top Grolsch beer bottles from any beer supply stores. You can get them for the deposit of 5 cents each. Or any beer bottle cleaned well of labels and residues will do but you need to invest in metal caps and a capping device if you don't have the flip top kind. Do not use wine bottles as they explode like bombs and we lost them all, but the champagne bottles worked great! We had a dirt flow basement and began cheering each time one exploded for the Earth as we learned the hard way.
To sanitize bottle and working equiment, I prefer to rinse all bottles and lids with a strong antimicrobial Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) infusion which has a rich history in beer making a well, Some use a bleach solution but this has many environmental issues around it washing into our Earth and residues making it into our bodies. I shy away from the commercial cleaners they offer too. Not sure what it is. Stephen Buhner offered this tip in his great book, Sacred Herbal Healing Beers, which offers an anthropological walk through time with humans and our fermentation practices.
1 pound fresh nettle (Urtica dioica) leaf or up to 8 ounces dried nettles
1 good handful of dandelion flowers - (gives some added hypnotic loveliness)
1 gallon water
1-2 ounces fresh grated ginger root (Zingiber officinale)
2 organic limes (what i have) but lemons work great too - get organic
1 pound brown sugar or quality imported brown cane sugar you can find
Beer Yeast per package instructions for 1 gallon*
*we small batch here in 1 gallon glass fermenting jugs. Gives me more variety over time. They're easy to find on-line with beer yeasts unless you have a local fermenting supplier shop.
- Bring water to boil, pour over nettles, dandelion flowers, freshly grated ginger (no need to peel as it all gets strained out) and zest from one lime/lemon, and let steep for 8 to 12 hours.
- Strain nettles infusion through fine muslin cloth. I gravity drip it for about 30 minutes as squeezing can release more sediment than desired.
- Juice limes/lemons and add juice to the strained infusion.
- Add brown sugar and stir well to dissolve.
- Pour into fermenting vessel with air lock top before adding yeast per package instructions.
- Now the magic happens as the bubbling develops over days. Ferment until complete, usually around 7-10 days, when the bubble action has eased down.
- Prime your clean and Wormwood-tea-rinsed bottles, fill, and cap as you have planned with metal caps soaked in the Wormwood tea as well. Depending on the size of the bottles, prime bottles with sugar by adding ½ teaspoon for 12 oz. bottles to 1 teaspoon for larger sized bottles, prior to filling.
- Allow to sit and second ferment in a cooler dark place. We keep them in boxes on a shelf in our garage that is 1/2 in the ground and always 50 degrees and explosion safe though we've not had this problem again.
- Ready to drink in 7 to 10 days. Try one and see if it needs more time. You will know if it's still sweet. Enjoy!
On-going Herbal Journeys at ElderMoon School
Live class begins this month, May 27, 2017. On-line classes, councils, and lodges are start anytime.
Afterthoughts: Tips for Success with Fermenting in our small batch way ...
- Brewing herbal beer can be as simple or complicated as you like. It requires only four basic ingredients: water, herbs, sugar, and yeast. I like small batches and keeping it simple. This way we have variety, walk with the seasons as they change plant-wise, and it's not so devastating if a gallon goes bad versus five gallons. We (would) feed the garden and compost with anything funky which actually hasn't happened.
- First create herbal tea blends that taste good, then try fermenting them.
- Be prepared to make a little mess but nothing greater than what happens when canning in the kitchen. Have good music playing too!
- Use clean, filtered water and do NOT heat water or brew herbal tea blends in a microwave.
- Be careful when you're making your herbal tea in larger batches on the stove that the pot doesn’t remain too hot and ‘cook’ your herbs too much or too long. This can affect final flavors.
- Fermentation temperature is an important consideration when choosing which strain of yeast to use. Choose a yeast strain based on the desired alcohol levels, sweetness/dryness, and carbonation of the herbal beer. Your preferences will develop with practice. WE use a standard IPA beer yeast.
- Cleanliness is crucial. Make sure that your fermenting and bottling equipment and bottles are thoroughly washed, rinsed, and dried before using. Consider extra rinsing should you choose to use sanitizing solution or bleach, though I prefer a rinse with strong Wormwood tea as mentioned above.
- Label and keep good notes so you can tweak things. Include ingredients, date of fermentation, date of bottling, type of yeast, and any thoughts and experiences you had about the whole process and the outcome.
- Prime your bottles carefully and consider monitoring your brewing process by tasting your fermentation, using a hydrometer, or both. We put 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in 12oz. bottles first before filling. This gives you fizz if you want it. Otherwise just bottle.
- Bottled beer can explode. Store where you can imagine such a mess in case it happens. Keep your eyes on your bottled beer for increasing air space in the neck of the bottles, a sign that things are about to explode.
- All wine bottles, and beer bottles with twist off caps, are not recommended for bottling. You can purchase bottles and caps at brewing supply stores. You can reuse bottles, but never reuse caps.
- Leaving bottled beer too long before drinking may lead to ‘punky flavors’. Enjoy your beer generally within 1 year of bottling, hence date everything.
- Yes, how you stir and pour matters. We're enticing magical happenings here so have fun! Consider the planets and moon, celebrating beloveds, following the seasonal plant changes, and bestowing prayers and blessings. Pouring libations on the Earth is nothing new either, so offer gratitude with a bit for the one that makes it all possible. Enjoy!