Ottos Cock-Ale I By Digby

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Full Recipe Name
To make Cock-Ale
Recipe Source
The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened, By Kenelm Digby
Otto Gottlieb
Panel Information
Panel Location: Brew U
Panel Date: March 31, 2012
Score: 80
Beverage Information
Period: Renaissance
Division: Division 1: Ales, Beer, Braggot, Lambic, Stout
Origin: English
Art by Rob Raymond, comic book artist.

Original Recipe

Take eight gallons of Ale, take a Cock and boil him well; then take four pounds of Raisins of the Sun well stoned, two or three Nutmegs, three or four flakes of Mace, half a pound of Dates; beat these all in a Mortar, and put to them two quarts of the best Sack: and when the Ale hath done working, put these in, and stop it close six or seven days, and then bottle it, and a month after you may drink it.


The redaction of this recipe is fairly straight forward. I followed the recipe literally, but scaled it for 5 gallons.


  • 8 lbs., Crips two-row (UK)pale malt
  • 1 1/3 lbs., additional malt, roasted 30 min. at 225 ° F followed by 30 min. at 300 ° F.
  • 3 lbs., rolled oats
  • 5 gal., water
  • 1 pkt, Danstar brand Nottingham ale yeast
  • 1 pkt, Danstar brand Windsor ale yeast
  • 1 chicken
  • 1 750 ml bottle of sweet mead

Process and Notes

For ale, I used Lord Tofi Kerthjalfadsson redaction of the Elizabeth de Burgh Household recipe (circa 1335) in Judith Bennett's book, Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England (1996). His work is well documented and includes several trials. I have used his most successful recipe. I boiled a 2 lb 3 oz., free-range, organic chicken from Sunnyside Farm, Linneus, Maine in the ale wort until it reached an internal temperature of 165° Farirenheit, which took about 30 min. I continued the boil for another 30 min. The ale fermented vigorously for several days. I racked it and added the additional ingredients. For Sack I used a 750 ml bottle of semi-sweet, organic mead from Shalom Orchard Winery in downeast Maine. I use ½ a lb of raisins, ¼ lb dates, 1 nutmeg, and a good pinch of mace in a food processor. The mead/spice mixture sat for a few days before racking the ale. I added the mead solution, and as much as I could pressed through a sieve, to the racked ale. The ale continued to ferment for several more days before bottling.

  • Original Gravity: 1.092
  • Final Gravity: 1.030
  • ABV: 8% + amount from the mead
  • Timeline: Brewed ale on March 4, 2011
  • Racked &added additional ingredients March 8. Bottled March 11, 2011.

At 8+ % ABV, this qualifies as a strong ale. My theory is that unhopped ales could achieve longer shelf life with higher alcohol content.

This was one of my first ales paneled by the EKBG. I saved the chicken and spices and reheated them in a Crock-Pot and served them to the judges when paneling (because, why not?). It tasted much better than you would expect!

Photos by Otto Gottlieb.