Nettle ale – a confession

I’m feeling a little downcast, having had a home brewing failure. The nettle ale I was so looking forward to has been popped open, sampled and found to be… sickly sweet. All that effort for something undrinkable has left me a bit reluctant to move on to something more complex, such as wines.

Here are the bottles, pictured in a row like this as a police line-up because of their criminal level of ickyness.

nettle ale

I’m assuming that the sweetness is down to not enough of the sugar turning to alcohol – this despite the fermentation bucket being kept in a warm airing cupboard, and staying there for a day more than the three recommended in Booze for Free. I followed Andy Hamilton’s Nettle Ale #1 recipe in that book, and I’m hoping he might be kind enough to point out where I’m likely to have gone wrong, and revive my dipped enthusiasm for making booze at home. Help!

UPDATE: Well, the lovely @AndyRHamilton has been kind enough to troubleshoot via the medium of Twitter.

First he suggested ‘tehydrating’ the yeast to see if it works ok before adding it to the fermentation bin – I assume this is a typo (for rehydrate) and not some technical term, as Google has no record of it… Anyway, I had done this: mixing it with some warmish water in a mug for a few minutes to activate the yeast, and it certainly seemed to work fine, frothing up nicely.

Andy’s next diagnosis was that I probably simply didn’t keep the ale warm enough for proper fermentation. I’d kept it in the airing cupboard but, given how miserly we are with using the central heating, even there probably wasn’t warm enough. Good advice from Andy was not to be too strict about leaving it for just 3 days – even 10 would be fine, as long as the job of fermentation gets done.

So I’m going to lick my wounds and try to get back into the home brewing fray – just in time for elderflower champagne. Elder is just on the cusp of producing those lovely frothy flower sprays. I had a great success with this last year, I just need to rein in the impatience and give the yeast time to do its job. Thanks, Andy.

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2 thoughts on “Nettle ale – a confession

  1. Hey GM, don’t be disheartened. It soynds as simple as fermentation didn’t finish which is savable, not a disaster. I always leave my brews at least two weeks and check that fermentation has finished before I bottle.
    I’ve just done an elderflower champagne and it’s well worth the effort so give it a try.

    Please feel free to get in touch if you ever have questions or just want some reassurance.

    1. Hi Kate and Eli,

      Thanks for the pep talk! Yes, following Andy’s instructions a little too much to the letter, rather than letting my observation and instinct lead, I think. I’ll certainly be doing some elderflower champagne soon (it went well last year) – as well as elderflower delight, fritters, cordial…

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