This is an authentic Tudor Buttered Beere (Butter Beer) recipe from 1588 and a rich, creamy ale (beer) is called for – but don’t get an ale which is too sweet, as we are adding in sugar as well as egg yolks. The best ales (beer) to buy are traditional ‘real-ales’ (or cask conditioned ales) from a British brewery with a good reputation (see the end of the post for recommendations). Most British ales (traditional beer) of this high quality are now exported world-wide – while more modern beers, such as ‘lager’ are not recommended.
This Tudor recipe for Buttered Beere is the oldest recorded instance of Butter Beer and it is authentically drunk warm, which is an acquired taste; but it is well worth trying. You don’t need too much, just a small tankard – the taste is ‘sharp’, as the cloves bind with the ale to make it the lingering, lasting taste on the tongue, drying the mouth, (it is almost unpleasant at first) but if you carry on drinking it soon mellows and it becomes acceptable, then very drinkable – you can also make the modern adapted version which is chilled, and drunk cold like an eggnog or make a plainer, simpler Buttered Beer from 1664.
Original Tudor Buttered Beere Recipe From 1588
From, ‘The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin’, published 1588
To make Buttered Beere
Take three pintes of Beere, put five yolkes of Egges to it, straine them together, and set it in a pewter pot to the fyre, and put to it halfe a pound of Sugar, one penniworth of Nutmegs beaten, one penniworth of Cloves beaten, and a halfepenniworth of Ginger beaten, and when it is all in, take another pewter pot and brewe them together, and set it to the fire againe, and when it is readie to boyle, take it from the fire, and put a dish of sweet butter into it, and brewe them together out of one pot into an other.
Tudor Buttered Beere Recipe From 1588
Modern Adaption: The original recipe from 1588 can also be mellowed (if preferred) … chilled and blended with cold milk it is very enjoyable and it becomes a very tasty drink, tasting of caramel and winter spices – which would appeal to more people.
- 1500 ml (3 bottles) of good quality British ‘ale’
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 200g demerara (natural brown) sugar
- 5 egg yolks (yolks only are needed)
- 100g unsalted butter (diced)
For The Adapted Chilled Milk Version
- 1500 ml of chilled buttered beere (made as above).
- 1500 ml of cold milk to mix with the butter beer
Pour the ale into a saucepan carefully (without exciting it too much) and stir in the ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Gently heat this mixture to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer on a low heat – the frothy ale will now clear. If this butterbeer is for adults then only simmer it for a few minutes on a low heat, for any younger adults heat the ale like this for 20 minutes at 140C, (use a cook’s or jam thermometer) this will burn off almost all of the alcohol.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until light and creamy. You may need to make this drink for the first time and then decide on how sweet you like it, (if it comes out too sweet for you make it again using less sugar next time – however the amount and ratio of sugar stated is from the authentic recipe).
Once the spiced ale is simmering remove the pan from the heat and add the beaten egg yolk and sugar mixture. Stir constantly until it is all mixed in and then return the saucepan to a low heat, until the liquid starts to thicken slightly.
Be careful not to let the saucepan get too hot again or the egg yolks will scramble and the sugar burn on the bottom before dissolving. Simmer at this low temperature for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes stir in the diced butter on a low heat until it melts. Then froth the Butterbeer mixture with a hand-whisk until it looks like frothy, milky tea.
After ten minutes remove the saucepan from the heat, allow the Buttered Beere to cool, to a warm drinkable temperature, and then give it a final good whisk. You can also follow the original Tudor recipe advice and pour the Butterbeer from one serving jug to another serving jug to froth it up.
Pour the Butter Beer into a serving jug, small glasses or small tankards, and serve while warm immediately.
Adapted Chilled Butter Beer (modern version)
Make the butterbeer as above, then leave to cool completely and chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Then using a whisk or blender (recommended) break up any lumps that may have formed during chilling. Blend the Butter Beer with some chilled whole-fat milk in a 1:1 ratio (1500ml Butter Beer with 1500ml of Milk) before serving. Froth the chilled Butter Beer up and then pour into glasses.
You will still be able to taste the authentic Tudor Butterbeer’s hoppy flavour, along with the sweet sugary caramel and winter spices, but this has a more gentle taste to the original, the milk giving it a rounder, subtler taste, which is very drinkable and enjoyable.
Recommended Ales For Butter Beer
If outside of the UK and getting the following ales proves difficult, then get a good local ‘real’ ale brewed in the traditional way from your country, (often referred to as ‘cask conditioned’ ale or beer). Do not use a modern beer such as ‘lager’, even those brewed in the UK. While lager and ale (British Beer) are two different types of beverages, in Britain it should be noted that traditional beer and ale are interchangeable names for roughly the same thing (although it is slightly more complicated than that).
1) ‘Bishops Finger’ from Shepherd Neame Brewery – the brewery was founded in 1698 so it is the perfect ale for our Tudor Butterbeer, being the oldest known British brewery. 2) ‘London Pride’ from Fuller’s Brewery – a lighter ale, this is good if making the Butterbeer non-alcoholic by simmering all the alcohol off. 3) ‘Old Peculiar’ from Theakston’s Brewery – an excellent all rounder for adults having an alcoholic Butter beer, with only gentle simmering. There are many other good makes, but these three are some of the best. If bottled beer is not widely available then three or four cans of ‘Old Speckled Hen’ from Greene King brewery are also recommended.