Today I tried a beer that has been on my wishlist for years, yet it doesn’t even contain a scrap of alcohol – butterbeer.
For those who aren’t Harry Potter fans, butterbeer is the tipple that wizards knock back in JK Rowling’s famous books.
The author makes it sound like the stuff dreams are made of, so for anyone who is both a beer geek and a Harry Potter geek (guilty as charged) it’s really a must-have.
You can try it out on a studio tour in London where it’s served in a a branded glass with a creamy head.
I haven’t had a chance to go and try the “real” stuff but friends tell me it’s sickly sweet and many people leave their glass half finished. That doesn’t deter me, I have a sweet tooth.
So instead, I opted for a copycat version called Flying Caudron Butterscotch Beer which you can buy in bottles.
The anecdote on the label tells you Flying Cauldron has produced this non-alcoholic brew since 1374 for underage witches and wizards at its brewpub in Hogsbreath. (Potter fans will note that the ‘authentic’ brew comes from the Leaky Caudron in Hogsmeade but presumably this branding change avoids a breach-of-copyright law suit…)
A serving suggestion recommends a scoop of vanilla ice cream but I ignored this as I’ve never been a fan of ‘floats’ . I have stomach-churning childhood memories of watching in horror as chunks of ice cream broke off and curdled into my fizzy drink. No to that.
So I enjoyed it ice cold, on its own, closed my eyes and imagined for a minute or two that I was a witch. And it was lovely.
Think of the most delicious cream soda with an even sweeter, butterscotch edge and that’s how it tastes.
Can you really call it beer?
So here’s the question – does butterbeer really belong on a beer blog? After all, it’s missing a fair few crucial ingredients, like hops, malt or yeast.
On that basis, probably not. But here’s why I’ve included it – the concept of butterbeer is not entirely ficticious.
It’s been around a heck of a lot longer than the Harry Potter books. Since the 1500s in fact.
There is a Tudor recipe for ‘Buttered Beere’ dating back to 1588 when it was published in ‘The Good Huswifes Handmaide For the Kitchin’. And unlike Hogsmeade’s (or Hogsbreath’s) offerings this one does actually contain beer.
It’s made using quality real ale, sugar, egg yolks, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and of course a dollop of butter, and it’s served hot.
Make your own
When I read this recipe I thought ‘that’s more like it’ as it sounded more like the beer I imagined when reading the books.
So forget going for a tour of the film studio – if you want to try REAL butterbeer, or should I say buttered beere, this is the recipe for you.
Check it out HERE if you want to try your hand at making it. I plan to give it a go.
I originally bought a Guinness Golden Ale to make it with, but have since tasted a beer called Cali Creamin which is made by Mother Earth Brew Co in San Diago and I think it’s the perfect contender.
It’s a vanilla cream ale, abv 5%, and has a subtle cream soda flavour thanks to Madagascar vanilla bean.
When I finish procrastinating and researching potential beers for the recipe I’ll be sure to post a video and verdict.
Buying butterbeer bottled
If that sounds too much like hard work, you’ll find Flying Cauldron’s version online (I bought it from eBay).
Alternatively, if you’re local to Edinburgh, there’s a Harry Potter themed shop in Victoria Street where you’ll find it in abundance. This street is also reputed to be the inspiration for the books’ Diagon Alley where witches and wizards buy their supplies so if you’re a fan it’s a must-visit spot.