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    Dec19

    Ye Olde Cock Ale

    cock ale

    “Take 10 gallons of ale and a large cock, the older the better; parboil the cock, flay him, and stamp him in a stone mortar until his bones are broken (you must gut him when you flay him). Then, put the cock into two quarts of sack, and put to it five pounds of raisins of the sun – stoned; some blades of mace, and a few cloves. Put all these into a canvas bag, and a little before you find the ale has been working, put the bag and ale together in vessel.” from Charlie Papazian’s “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing,” and originally from “The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt. Opened,” 1677.

    When I read this, I knew I’d have to try it. The joy of homebrewing, for me, is in experimenting and creating things you’ll never find in a store. Sometimes you create something awesome, and it’s only rare that you create something that totally sucks. So I figured that if the Ye Olde Cock Ale was good enough for the eminently learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt., well… then it’s certainly good enough for me! At the very least, it’d be fun to market: “Care for a mouthful of my delicious cock ale? You know, even the fellas just can’t get enough of my cock ale.” etc., etc.

    So I began. With some help from the Internet (ghoti mag #4, I translated the original recipe into the following ingredients:

    Ye Olde Cock Ale

    • 6lb light malt extract (or 10lb of 2-row, if you prefer all-grain)
    • 4 gallons of hard water
    • 2oz German magnum hops
    • 1 chicken
    • 1/2 gallon of dry white wine (“sack”)
    • 12oz raisins
    • cloves, thyme, and nutmeg to taste
    • white wine yeast (used Wyeast #735)

    I really wanted to go to the butcher and ask him for his biggest, oldest cock… but I couldn’t resist the $.69 / lb. fryer chickens at my local grocery store. I went super-cheap on the white wine, too, with a gallon jug of Carlo Rossi Chardonnay. I figured that the delightfully powerful magnum hops would overpower any off-flavors from the wine, and the yeast would be fermenting a whole new batch of
    deliciousness anyway… and I think I turned out to be right. You can go all-grain if you want to: you’ll save a bit of money, but I’ve never noticed a flavor difference after trying both methods. Extract
    brewing ends up being as simple as making soup… in this case, a delicious chicken soup that magically turns into cock ale.

    The Method

    1. Rub the bird with cloves and thyme.
    2. Bake the chicken. Eat half while enjoying a tasty homebrew.
    3. Crack the bones and stuff into a cheesecloth sack along with the raisins. Drop the sack into the wine to soak.
    4. Add spices to taste, and let sit for 2 days.
    5. Meanwhile, start the beer: Bring the 4 gallons to a boil, and add the malt extract and 1oz of hops.
    6. Let boil for 45 minutes, then add the other 1oz of hops. Boil for 15 more minutes.
    7. Remove the malt-water (called the “wort”) from heat and pour into your fermenter (a big plastic bucket or a glass carboy work equally well… just make sure you have an airlock to let the CO2 escape).
    8. Cool the wort – an ice bath works fine. Keep the pot covered and cool as quickly as you can to avoid contamination from wild bacteria or yeast. But don’t worry: have a homebrew instead.
    9. When the wort has cooled, pour in the yeast.
    10. After 2 days, the yeast will have magically transformed your wort into beer. But now it’s time to make it truly magical. Pour in the wine, cock-in-sack and all! Let this ferment for another 5 days.
    11. I recommend transferring at least once into a secondary fermenter, just because you’ll have some chicken fat to get rid of (this will reduce the head quality of the final brew). Throw out the sack o’ cock when you transfer: I tried to eat mine, but there really wasn’t any flavor left in it. Let it mature for at least a week, but a few months of aging will really improve your cock ale.
    12. Bottle (with boiled priming sugar) and let sit for 2 weeks to carbonate, or just keg and drink immediately.

    Congratulations– you now have 5 gallons of Ye Olde Cock Ale.

    I was pretty impressed with the flavor: the German magnum hops added a nice bitterness to counteract the raisins and spices, and without the grapefruit flavor that you get from comparably strong US-grown hops. It was reminiscent of a spiced Octoberfest style. And there was only the subtlest hint of sweet baked-chicken flavor. I almost couldn’t believe that having something called “cock ale” in my mouth would be so enjoyable. Instead of recommending this recipe as simply bad-ass, I can actually recommend that it’s very tasty! When I shared it with friends, they too were delighted, and I thoroughly enjoyed revealing the full nature of the tasty beverage they’d just quaffed. Even the
    refined palate of the Kaiser himself found this to be a delightful and quaffable beverage.

    So go on, give it a try… The eminently learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt. would be proud.

    About the Author

    KP correspondent Jon the Longpaddle has been a homebrewer of beer, mead, and occasionally wine for three years. His cocktail experience is scant, with his training (by renowned master KP himself) cut short after an unfortunate experiment involving seafood cheese dip. Jon’s favorite beers are black lagers, and his favorite liquor is 18-yr Caol Isla. He gets paid to be an astronomer, but he spends as much time as possible as a dashing gentleman pirate in South America and East Asia. In his free time, Jon backpacks, paddles, hunts, and lights himself on fire.

    KP Question

    • Have any of you guys brewed your own beer? What has been your best effort?


    10 Responses to “Ye Olde Cock Ale”

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    10 Comments to “ Ye Olde Cock Ale”
    1. TiareNo Gravatar says:

      This sounds tasty!

      I have never brwed beer in my life!

      Lovely photo.

    2. MartinNo Gravatar says:

      Wouldn’t “sack” have meant sherry, not dry white wine?

    3. BunnyhugsNo Gravatar says:

      I was thinking sack would have meant sherry too.

      Back when I was at university I used to brew a bit of beer. I mostly brewed from malt extract. My one attempt at doing an all-grain batch was not too successful. The New Zealander importer of Hoegarden stopped bringing it in so I tried making my own. The result was very. . . medieval.

      My best received effort was probably an Irish stout – made straight out of the can. It compared very well against Guinness in blind tastings. A slightly more creative effort that I was very pleased with was a slightly strong Scottish Ale (maybe around the 5.5% mark). Again it was based on a brew kit, but I think I upped the alcohol slightly and beefed up the body with some chocolate and crystal malt.

      I read recipes for cock ale in some old cook books, but I never got around to trying it.

    4. RowenNo Gravatar says:

      Egad! Simply astonishing. I’ve never brewed before (and after the revels last night, it’ll be some before the kitchen will be clean enough to try), but this recipe makes me wanna make ale. It makes me wanna make vile puns. It makes me wanna see if maybe the turkey carcasses from the Christmas party might be turned to a nobler purpose. Wow.

    5. BonzoGalNo Gravatar says:

      I wonder what the motivation was for using poultry to make a drink? Did it have more vitamins?

    6. EmilyNo Gravatar says:

      I’m a vegetarian, but as a homebrewer, this is very intriguing. I might have to try it.

    7. EmilyNo Gravatar says:

      One question, in addition to racking, did you do anything else to clarify the cock ale?

    8. napplegateNo Gravatar says:

      I certainly have to say I laughed quite a few times in my read through of this post rick. That aside, I have several friends who do homebrewing talk about antiquated recipes such as this in the past. I’ll have to get together with them and give it our best shot if not just for the splendid opportunity for 4th grade humor.

    9. I’m delighted to see all of the excitement about this post! The cock ale is definitely the beer I’m proudest of brewing. A few answers & comments:

      1. Yep, “sack” probably ought to be dry sherry, so I guess I cut corners there.
      2. “Kit” beers are generally very tasty: for instance, in my town (Tucson) there is a wonderful homebrew store with extremely well-designed recipes. It’s quite simple to make your first beer be very tasty!
      3. I can only guess that the motivation for including poulty was (a) assuming that chicken stock makes rice tastier, so why not beer, or (b) in order to make vile puns.
      4. Clarifying was a little tricky, because the chicken definitely left a layer of fat on the surface. I think I simply racked it a few times, and it got as clear as any other homebrew.
      5. I haven’t done it myself, but a few of my friends tried to make some gruit, a medieval ale which uses alternate bittering agents than hops. They tried yarrow and wormwood, and maybe some others. It tasted very medieval and lusty, but wasn’t something I’d drink every day.

      My absolutely favorite part of brewing is inventing new and ridiculous beverages, so I highly recommend that you try it yourself!

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    About

    Kaiser Penguin is a cocktail blog featuring original recipes, homemade ingredients, classic cocktails, and tiki drinks.

    Why on Earth did you name your blog “Kaiser Penguin?”

    It is a well-known fact that penguins are members of high society and enjoy fine cocktails. Our very own kaiser penguin would like me to mention that he also enjoys various treats from the sea.

    Contact: rick@kaiserpenguin.com