Healthy beer alternatives? Are there any real options?

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This month is all about going alcohol free. Whether you are doing it as part of Sober October, the health benefits are undeniable. There are some tasty alternatives to alcohol which we can make ourselves, which are much cheaper than shop bought  bottles. One drink I’d like to look at this week is nettle beer. Whilst it’s called “beer” I’m not here to argue whether or not it is alcoholic. I’m just pointing out that there are some really tasty alternatives which may be worth exploring. Do we actually need alcohol or would any liquid be suitable as a social drink?

Let's look at some alternatives. Who doesn’t know the stinging nettle?

In the UK there are not many who haven’t fallen foul to the tiny stinging needles one way or another. The merest touch can bring the skin out in itching, burning eruptions.  The stinging nettle or Urtica dioica has an inflammatory effect on skin  which is called contact urticaria. Nothing serious to most people, just more of an annoyance.

So is nettle beer actually “beer” as we now know it? Well, before hops were widely used in the 17th century all sorts of plants were used to make beer, such as dandelions, ginger, nettles. Not only is nettle beer inexpensive to make, it is believed to help alleviate rheumatic pain, gout and asthma. Nettles are also high in iron, protein, potassium and silica (great for hair and nails).

In French, nettle beer is know an Ortilette. I prefer to think of nettle beer as more of a sparkling health tonic. There are many recipes available for nettle beer but here is one of my favourites by John Rensten.

Nettle beer is quick and easy to make. Just be sure to get the first fermentation over so that your bottles don’t explode. For this reason it’s important to use bottles suitable for beer (or screw top plastic bottles will do if that’s all you have)  For extra flavour you can add ginger, rose petals, lemon or dandelion at the first fermentation stage.  Just make sure you choose fresh nettle tops, which are well away from roadsides and pesticides. Nettles are a wonderful cut and come again crop so if you have some old nettles in your garden you can cut them down and watch them grow back again within a couple of weeks. The best time to get fresh, young nettles is in the Spring, but make no mistake, they are still all around.


50 nettle tops, roughly the top 6-8 inches

6l water

500g of sugar

25g of cream of tartar

8g of brewers yeast


Take the nettle tops, picked using rubber gloves and some good scissors, then wash them well. Add the nettles to the water, usually in two pans unless you have a huge one. In any case the nettles will soon wilt down.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes before removing the nettles (you can eat them as a veg or use them to make a lifetime supply of nettle pesto) and add the sugar and 25 grams of cream of tartar powder to the nettle-infused water.

Stir the sugar until it dissolves and then let the liquid cool to tepid before mixing in the brewers yeast. Leave in a sterilised bucket with muslin over the top for a few days before siphoning into sterilised bottles.

Are you willing to give nettle beer a whirl? Let is know what you think and if you feel it's a good alternative to regular beer and do  you think we actually need alcohol or would any liquid be suitable as a social drink?

Written by: Mimi




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