Ortilette – French Nettle Beer

Ortilette – Nettle Beer à la française

This is a light refreshing fermented drink with a very low alcohol content, that nevertheless packs some fizz! Made in a similar way to ash leaf ‘frenette’ that traces its history back to ancient Gaul under the Romans. It is very similar to British nettle beer recipes but it doesn’t taste like a hops beer at all.

Makes 20 litres
25 litre brewing bucket, oak barrel, glass or earthenware demijohn.

2 kg nettle tops (about 2 full carrier bags)
20 litres of rainwater or soft, de-chlorinated water
1 handful of rose leaves
15 g tartaric acid (Cream of Tartar) or 25 ml lemon juice
16 g (2 sachets) bakers/brewers yeast or a champagne yeast
1 kg raw cane sugar

Some older recipes suggest that you just add everything together and stick the bucket in the sun for 2 days, with a loose cover, then filter and strain. This may well work in the South of France but certainly not in a Scottish climate… so I follow the set of directions below:

Infuse the nettle tops and rose leaves in 2 liters of boiling water, simmering gently for 1/2 hour. Remove from the gas and dissolve in the sugar.

When cool enough to handle safely, pour all the contents into your brew bucket. Add the rest of the water bringing it up to 20 litres, keeping it at around body temperature.

Dissolve the yeast in half a litre of water and add this to the bucket, stirring well. Then dissolve the tartaric acid in a cup of water, add and stir again.

Leave in the bucket, without sealing it, covered with a muslin cloth, for 8 to 10 days in a warm place to slowly ferment. When there are no more bubbles or the specific gravity has reached 1008-1010, filter off and pour into sturdy, sterilized glass bottles. Cork or seal well, and lay them on their sides for a further 8 to 10 days.

Take care when opening – like any fizzy drink it can be explosive!

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