Beer, c. 1577

 Beer, c. 1577

“Having therefore groond eight bushels of good malt upon our querne, where the toll is saved, she addeth unto it half a bushel of wheat meale, and so much of otes small groond, and so tempereth or mixeth them with the malt, that you cannot easily discerne the one from the other, otherwise these later would clunter, fall into lumps, and thereby become unprofitable. The first liquor which is full eighde gallons according to the proportion of our furnace, she maketh boiling hot, and then powreth it softlie into the malt, where it resteth (but without stirring) untill hir second liquor be almost ready to boile. This doone she letteth hir mash run till the malt be left without liquor, or at the leastwise the greater part of the moisture, which she perceiveth by the staie and softe issue thereof, and by this time hir second liquor in the furnace is ready to seeth, which is put also to the malt as the first woort also againe into the furnace, whereunto she addeth two pounds of the best English hops, and so letteth them seeth together by the space of two hours in summer, or an houre and a halfe in winter, whereby it getteth an excellent colour and continuance without impeachment, or anie superfluous tartnesse. But before she putteth her first woort into the furnace, or mingleth it with the hops, she taketh out a vessel full, of eight or nine gallons, which she shutteth up close, and suffereth no afire to come into it till it become yellow, and this she reserveth by it selfe unto further use, as shall appeare hereafter, calling it Brackwoort or Charwoort, and as she saith it addeth also to the colour of the drinke, whereby it yeeldeth not unto amber or fine gold in hew unto the eie.  By this time also hir second woort is let runne, and the first being taken out of the furnace and placed to Goole, she returneth the middle woort into the furnace, where it is striken over, or from whence it is taken againe…When she hath mashed also the last liquor (and set the second to Goole by the first) she letteth it runne and then seetheth it againe with a pound and a half of new hops or peradventure two pounds as she seeth cause by the goodness or baseness of the hops; and when it hath sodden in summer two hours, and in winter an houre and a halfe, she striketh it also and reserveth it unto mixture with the rest when time doth serve therefore. Finallie when she setteth hir drinke together, she addeth to hir brackwoortl or charwoort halfe an ounce of arras and halfe a quarterne of an ounce of baiberries finelie powdered, and then putteth the same into hir woort with an handful of wheate floure, she proceedeth in such usuall order as common bruing requireth. Some in steed of arms and baies add so much long peper onely, but in hir opinion and my lyking it is not so good as the first, [1] and hereof we make three hoggesheads of good beere, such (I meane) as is meet for poore men as am I to live withall whose small maintenance (for what great thing is fortie pounds a yeare computatis computandis, able to performe?) may indure no deeper cut, the charges whereof groweth in this manner. -England in Shakespeare’s Time, by William Harrison, 1577


This was a tricksy recipe to parse, despite its length and apparent level of detail. One of the tricks with taking an old recipe and making it more managable for modern brewing is the problem of scope. The original recipe was intended to produce over 200 gallons of beer, which is rather a lot more than most brewers are prepared to make at home.

With some clever math we get:

  • 2.8 # malt
  • .3# each wheat and oats

For a total of 3.4 # total mashables

To simulate the somewhat unpredictable maltedness of historical barley, I used 2 parts Biscuit, 1 part Munich Light, and 1/2 part Special B. I wanted a lighter beer, so I chose those grains by taste. Bayberries are related to sweet gale, which I had on hand, so subbed that in.

The flavor is very unique, light and refreshing. It’s been a little while since I tasted it, so I’m a little hazy on the adjectives. But several other friends (mostly historical brewers), and everyone gave it a positive review. I’d definitely try it again!


Recipe for 1577 Beer

Notes: Your Original Gravity, after sparging and boiling down, ought to be somewhere in the range of 1.05.


  • 2.8 lb. malt (2 parts Biscuit, 1 part Munich Light, and 1/2 part Special B)
  • .3 lb. coarse whole wheat flour
  • .3 lb. steel cut oats
  • .75 gallons boiling water, thrice
  • .3 oz. English hops (I used Fuggles)
  • .1 oz sweet gale
  • .1 oz orris root
  • ale yeast

Heat 1 gallon water until it’s just slightly too hot to put a hand into. Ladle this over the malt, then cover and swaddle to let mash for around an hour. Strain out and reserve the liquid, reserving the grain.

Heat 1 gallon water and pour over the grains again. Again, swaddle and let steep for about an hour. Put the rest of the wort from the first batch back on the stove, and heat. Add hops in a straining bag, and let cook for until you have a gallon left. Allow to cool, and pitch yeast. Ferment sensibly, and bottle likewise.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. kingsley says:

    So you weren’t tempted to use some smoked malt in there to simulate malt dried over fire?

  2. Todd says:

    I was going to mention that back in 1577 the technology to produce cleanly dried malt did not exist. The maltster would have had to dry the germinating grains using some sort of open flame, and the grain and beer itself would have had SOME level of smokiness inherent.

    The indirect heating techniques weren’t really developed for use in being able to make malts until the mid 1800’s, around the time of the pale lager’s creation in bohemia.

  3. John Cook IV says:

    For this recipe, did you mash the wheat and oats with the malt the whole time?

  4. Seth says:

    talk to me about that glass please

  5. Alex Mintz says:

    2 pounds of hops?!!

    1. Chelsea says:

      Sorry about that! The 2 lb was left over from my downsizing calculations- in the original, those 2 lb. go along with more than 8 bushels of malt! 🙂

  6. Julien says:

    Biscuit and Spécial B have no diastasic power (no enzyme), and Münich’s is rather low, didn’t you have problems to mash it ?

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