(Part 1 here)

So, having settled on October 18th for the brewday, I had to actually think about boring things like recipes and how, exactly, we were going to add fruit, spice, sack and dead bird to the resultant ferment.

Recreating the beer exactly as it would have existed a few centuries ago would be, if not impossible, beyond my capabilities here. The varieties of barley grown, how they were malted, the qualities and freshness of the hops, the yeast cultures used, receptacles for fermentation and maturation – all would be different to some degree. Not to mention variance over time and between regions. From reading old copies of the Protz/La Pensée CAMRA Homebrew Classics range won at various beer festivals in my youth and the ongoing excavations of Ron Pattinson and Martyn Cornell‘s blogs, I was happy to draw a line through “historically accurate” and instead list hopefully towards “vaguely traditional-feeling”.

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So, back in March 2021 a friend threw a message my way asking if I was au fait with the works of Sir Kenelm Digby? Given that Richard (that’s my friend – I haven’t slipped into referring to myself in the third-person quite yet) likes himself a bit of pre-industrial history, weird folklore and the grotesque, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect him to follow this with, but it certainly wasn’t a request to try and brew a batch of, uh, “cock ale”. After a certain amount of to-and-fro to work out what he was on about, Wikipedia reassured me that it wasn’t just a practical joke. Admittedly, that the source book was called The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Opened did seem of a piece with the general innuendo.

As far as I could work out, cock ale was a strong ale fortified with dried fruit, spices, fortified wine and the obligatory cockerel. The latter was boiled well, then smushed up – bones and all – and added to the non-beer ingredients to soak, before the lot was pitched into the ale as it finished fermenting. Have a look, courtesy of the Gutenberg Project‘s copy:

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The Black Manhattan is a favoured cocktail in this household, for good reason. As one who’d never turn down the chance to enjoy a respectable rye whiskey (something that’s latterly become far easier in the UK) this Manhattan variant is all the excuse I need, marrying well with Averna‘s dark sugar aromatics. Anyhow, this post is meant to be about rum, so I’ll move on. There’s a through line here, I promise you.

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