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Digby’s Ale With Honey

This is based on Sir Kenelme Digby’s recipes for “Small Ale for the Stone” and “Ale with Honey” from The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt. Opened: Whereby is Discovered Several ways for making of Metheglin, Sider, Cherry-Wine, &c. Together with Excellent Directions for Cookery: As also for Preserving, Conserving, Candying, &c. (1669). The exact taste will depend on the type of malt, hops and honey used, but this recipe gives a strong ale with a noticeable honey flavour.


For every kilogram of malt extract (makes about 8.5 litres of ale):

1 kgliquid malt extract
12hop pellets (see notes)
9 Lwater
1.3 kghoney
1 packetdried ale or lager yeast
11 tspsugar

Put the hop pellets into the water and bring to the boil. Skim the hop pellet residue from the top, then dissolve the malt in the water.

Take about 2.5L of the wort for every kilogram of malt, and dissolve the honey in it. Seal the honey mixture in a container and set it aside.

Leave the remaining wort to cool until it reaches room temperature, then put it in a fermenter and add the yeast.

Leave the wort to ferment for 2-3 days, then mix the honey mixture into the main wort. Leave the wort to continue fermenting.

When fermentation has completed, bottle the ale with one teaspoon of sugar per 750mL bottle, or half a teaspoon per 375mL bottle.

Digby says that the ale is made “about Michaelmas for Lent”, that is, he leaves it to mature for about six months over winter before drinking it. It is possible to drink it two weeks after bottling though it may be a bit rough.


Hops. The strength of hops depends on their alpha content and the quantity given above may need to be varied according to the alpha content of your hops, and personal taste. The above quantity of twelve pellets is based on Hallertau hops with 6.8% alpha content.

Alcohol content. Honeyed ales have somewhat higher alcohol content than normal ales. I guess most of mine have been around 7-8% alcohol but have never measured it.