Butterbeer – Harry Potter

 Butterbeer, from Harry Potter

Thoughts:

I’ve never really held with the idea that the Butterbeer in Harry Potter is basically some sort of cream soda. No way. To me, that’s a very American interpretation, with artificial flavoring, and so much sugar that it becomes horrible.

My approach, probably unsurprising to many of you, was to dip into the historical cookbooks for my inspiration. And lo, from the late 1500s, there’s a recipe for “Buttered Beere”. Clearly this was what I needed to try.

My first reaction to the finished historical brew was one of surprise: The smell doesn’t quite match the flavor, so the first sip is not what you’ll be expecting. It almost smells like a sweet dough, as you might make for cinnamon rolls, with that combination of yeast, butter, and eggs. However, the flavor itself is one of creamy, spiced beer, with all the residual hops and tinge of bitterness that go with it. 

The mixture thickens, not quite to the density of eggnog, but in a similar way. Served warm in a large mug, and redolent with spices, it’s an interesting and unique winter holiday beverage. Although I can’t quite imagine myself craving a big mug of this beverage on a regular basis, I’d certainly slap down two sickles for a pint at the Hog’s Head Inn or the Three Broomsticks!

Adapted Historical Recipe for Butterbeer

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. -The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin, 1588

Cook’s Notes: For an extra indulgence, try adding a bit of cream or whole milk to the finished butterbeer. Add no more than a 1:1 ratio, and serve the adulterated version chilled, rather than hot. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 bottles of ale
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 5 egg yolks (save the whites for something like meringue)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

 Heat the ale and spices in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. If it has a lot of foam, that should die down once it starts heating up. 

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and egg yolks. while whisking furiously, pour in a ladle-full of the hot ale. Whisk until it’s incorporated, then pour the whole mess back into the pot of ale, still whisking madly.

Keep the mixture just under a simmer, stirring until it thickens somewhat. Add the chunks of butter and stir until they’re melted. Whisk with a hand mixer (or a lot of arm strength), until a foam rises. 

Serve hot, in heat-proof mugs.

Leave a Reply

  1. In lieu of sugar, could you use something more like butterscotch candies that have been pulverized? Or would that be too sweet?

  2. Reblogged this on byrdie grey and commented:
    I have discovered a new blog whose pages I’ll be haunting frequently. Do you remember reading Lord of the Rings and wishing you could taste Lembas or take part of the great Hobbit feasts? Or what about the Redwall series: feast after feast after glorious 10-page feast. This blogger/book reviewer is making those wishes come true! Despite a day job, they spend long hours researching historical recipes and toiling in the kitchen, making fictional foods come to life. Then they share their detailed, custom recipes, fully equipped with photos and scrumptious descriptions.

    The Butter Beer recipe (from Harry Potter, of course!) will be my first try. I think October will be the perfect time to have a marathon movie night, surrounded by flickering candles, and mugs of butter beer to warm us up.

  3. I love the way the original recipe asks for a penny or hapenny- worth of spices… Clearly not written for a later time! I have found that all the spices are in a jar of mixed spice I bought from the supermarket. I must ask at the bottle shop about ale which is not, of course, the same as beer, they should have some. We’re in the middle of spring here, but should have enough cool nights for me to try this. I always try a recipe first as given, then adapt if I think it will work better for me. Kudos to you for finding this and then adapting it in a way that doesn’t stray too far from the original.

  4. Is there much alcohol content left in the butterbeer after it’s been heated like that? I kind of want to bring some to work for those cold overnight shifts but obviously not if there’s still alcohol left in it.

    • I’d say that while the alcohol is lessened, some probably remains. It’s not much, but definitely there. Instead, you could try a mulled cider, klava, or the homemade chai tea I’m hoping to post soon. :)

  5. Just made this, and was very pleasantly surprised! The rich sweetness is off-set really nicely by the slightly bitter beer and the butter is the cherry on the sundae. I split the batch in half, added some cream to one and put it in the fridge. I’m excited to try the indulgent chilled version, too!

    • Awesome! I’m so glad you liked it! It’s a very different take on butterbeer than the commercial versions available, but I always really prefer the historical approach to food and drink. Curious to hear what you think of the chilled version!

  6. Just visited the Harry Potter world in Universal and have to agree with you. While somewhat tasty, their version of Butterbeer is a glorified cream soda topped with vanilla foam. Will have to try this historical recipe.

  7. For a large bunch of kids, I wanted to do a harry potter themed cooking demonstration, and I figured butterbeer would be perfect! But I was wondering since this recipe uses ale (which is just fine for us adults, but not so great for 12 year olds) if you could suggest any substitutions? The only thing I could think of is birch beer which is not too overly sweet like most root beers I find but I’d love to hear your opinion first.

    • They do produce alcohol-removed beer, if you can find it. I work in a liquor store, and we sell it. Look around a bit :)