Bir Pletok, Traditional Beer from Jakarta

The name of Bir Pletok

Last article visitingjava shared an information about Jakarta and also a brief of Jakarta’s heritage which known as Bir Pletok. It is very popular since centuries ago and the name of Bir Pletok was given by the old people of Jakarta (Betawi people). The existence of Bir Pletok was an answer of the dutch colonialism that came with all of their customs (includes their habit to take a beer while having spare times either at noon or night). The local people of Betawi created their own home-made beer and surely it wasn’t an alcohol based drink since most of Betawi people were known as a loyal Moslem.

Some of Bir Pletok Brands

Some of Bir Pletok Brands

Well, just like another country which suffered by colonialism in the past, so does people of Indonesia. The old people of Betawi faced reality that their younger generation exposed by the western customs but they must continue to carry-on the local tradition so there will be stories to share in the future about Betawi. From this point, they tried to create the unique beverage which could be a long-lasting heritage for their descendant and due to the Moslem main principle that alcohol based drink is not good for health then Bir Pletok was born as the traditional beverage from Betawi.

A bamboo tube was the original packaging of Bir Pletok. As the liquid stored in the tube and some of cube ice mixed with the liquid then the bamboo shake for 1-2 minutes. As a result, there will be sound “pletak-pletok” and that is why the name of this beverage known as Bir Pletok. That was a creative name and until today the name of Bir Pletok is very popular, especially in Jakarta.

Bir Pletok and Jakarta’s modern culture

As Jakarta grows into a big city between 1970s – 1990s the popularity of Bir Pletok also arising but unfortunately the younger generation of Betawi people has another opinion about modern living. Various international brands came to Jakarta and some of international beer companies also swarmed Jakarta with their product so this is the point where Bir Pletok’s popularity drowned slowly.

The alcohol based drink became more popular for Jakarta’s next generation people. There is nothing wrong with this situation but today Bir Pletok usually only can be found at certain moments such as, traditional marriage events, cultural events, etc. This is a perfect drink which can be served with Betawi’s traditional cakes such as, Ketan Bakar, Kue Talam, etc.

A Traditional Bir Pletok Booth which can be found at food exhibition

A Traditional Bir Pletok Booth

Although Bir Pletok is an icon of Betawi that lives until today but rarely people could find it in Jakarta. If you came to Jakarta, you need to explore sub-urban of Jakarta (where the most of Betawi people lives) to find Bir Pletok which stored in bamboo tube. For practical reason, the packaging of Bir Pletok also changed into bottle just like lemonade and other instant drink. The ingredients which used to brew a modern package of Bir Pletok surely similar to the old-school package but there is different sensation if you drink Bir Pletok directly from the bamboo tube. Yes, you can’t hear the sound “pletak-pletok” anymore if you drink Bir Pletok from a glass or bottle.

How to brew Bir Pletok at home

So, you want to brew Bir Pletok at home? No problem. This healthy drink is very recommended even for children. No alcohol, No risk and No need to spend big money to brew it. Bir Pletok is made from traditional ingredients such as ginger, raw sugar, lemongrass and wooden cup.

Here are the steps :

Main ingredients

– 650 ml pure water
– 80 gr of ginger
– 70 gr of raw sugar
– 1 rod of wooden cup (smash it)
– 1 lemongrass
– 1 cardamom
– 1 bowl of cube ice (6-7 cubes of ice)

(Left : Main Ingredients to brew Bir Pletok, Right : what a tempting Bir Pletok with cube ice)

(Left : Main Ingredients to brew Bir Pletok, Right : Bir Pletok with cube ice, want to try it??)

Brewing steps

– Cut all of ingredients (ginger, lemongrass, cardamom and wooden cup) into small pieces
– Boil pure water until it is bubbling
– Put all ingredients into the boiling water
– Stir the water every 5 minutes
– After 20 minutes we can lift up the boiling water and leave it (cool it down)
– Bir Pletok is ready to be served

This traditional beverage is ideal to be served while it is hot or cold (by adding 6-7 cubes of ice) and you can try to serve it at family reunion, small party at home or school and even you can brew Bir Pletok while having an adventure (exploring mountains, caves, etc).

(Left : Bir Pletok Packaging Process in a home-industry class brewery, Right : Bir Pletok ready to be distributed)

(Left : Bir Pletok Packaging Process in a home-industry class brewery, Right : Bottles of Bir Pletok are ready to be distributed)

Bir Pletok is not only good in taste but it is also healthy since ginger contains arginine which could help the blood flows normally within the veins. Hopefully, there will be more of young Indonesian generation (especially Betawi people) who can love this traditional beverage (Bir Pletok) instead of alcohol based drink which very attractive (in promotion) but less effective (in health).

By Amar Pujo Wicaksono

(Contributor at visitingjava.com)


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2 thoughts on “Bir Pletok, Traditional Beer from Jakarta

  1. Pingback: Jakarta, City of Dreams | visitingjava

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