The Harry Potter fantasy series popularized butterbeer but in reality, the alcoholic version of this beer style dates as far back as 1588. Then, it was known as buttered beere and it was drunk warm, unlike our modern habit of drinking chilled beer.
Back then, buttered beer was made from traditional beer. But, today, a high-quality ale can be used to make a modern iteration of this historical drink.
In this article, we’ll show you how to make modern butterbeer. It is best if you have ready-made beer on hand. If not, we’ll take you through an easy beer-making process before you can make butterbeer.
Let’s get started!
Tools and Supplies To Make Butterbeer
To brew the beer you will need:
- 5-gallon fermenter vessel with lid and airlock
- Siphon and tubing for bottling
- Long-handled plastic spoon
- Kitchen thermometer
- Sanitizer for sterilizing the equipment
- ½ lb crushed crystal malt
- ½ lb crushed American 6-row malt
- 5 lb dry malt extract
- ½ oz Centennial hops (add at 60 minutes)
- 1 oz Cascade hops (add at 15 minutes)
- 1 oz Centennial hops (add at 15 minutes)
- 1 oz Cascade hops (add at 0 minutes)
- 1 pct Wyeast 1272 yeast
To make the butterbeer, gather the following:
- Medium-sized saucepan
- Small bowl
- Small glasses or tankards
- Balloon whisk
- 2 bottles of ale beer
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¾ lb brown sugar
- ¼ lb diced unsalted butter
Step-by-Step Guide To Make Butterbeer
We will first brew some homemade beer before moving on to make butterbeer.
Step 1: Clean and sanitize
Before brewing your beer, you must clean and thoroughly sanitize all your brewing equipment. Even a small number of microbes is enough to ruin the fermentation process and spoil your beer.
Use a high-quality sanitizer that will sterilize all equipment as well as your working countertop or stovetop from where you will be brewing your beer.
Step 2: Steep the grains
Heat water in a 2.5-gallon brewer’s kettle to about 150oF. Meanwhile, add the grain malt to a grain bag and tie a knot at the top of the bag.
Lower the grain bag into the kettle when the water temperature gets to 150oF. Steeping the grain will lower the water temperature so you want to bring the temperatures back up to between 150oF and 160oF.
Hold the grain at this temperature for 15 to 2 minutes. Then, lift the grain bag out of the water and allow it to drain into the kettle. Discard the spent grain or reuse it as compost.
The water left in the brewer’s kettle after steeping the grain is known as wort (pronounced as wert). Wort is unfermented beer that will be transformed into real beer by adding yeast to it.
Step 3: Start the boiling process
You will need to boil your wort for 60 minutes. Boiling helps to kill any lingering harmful microbes that would come into contact with the beer.
The boiling phase is also a good time to add malt and hops, which are responsible for giving beer its distinct bitterness profile and flavor. You will add hops of varying levels of bitterness at different points in the boiling process.
To get started, bring the wort to a rolling boil. Then, turn the heat off and add the malt extract. Stir continuously until the extract dissolves.
Return the wort to the heat and bring to a boil. Set the timer for 60 minutes. Once the wort boils, add the first batch of hops and continue to boil. Add the second and third batch of hops 15 minutes before the end of the boiling process and then the last batch 5 minutes before flameout.
Step 4: Cool and transfer the wort
After the 60-minute boiling phase is complete, turn off the heat and cool the wort fast to bring the temperatures down to below 85oF. A wort chiller is the fastest way to cool wort but if you do not have a chiller, you can cool using an ice bath.
We recommend that you learn how to cool wort fast because this step will have a big effect on the fermentation process.
Once the wort is cool, the next step is racking, which is simply transferring the wort to a fermentation vessel. You can add refrigerated water to top up the wort depending on the amount of beer you are looking to make.
Pro Tip: Use a hydrometer to measure the original gravity to determine how much fermentable sugar is available in your wort. You will use this figure later to calculate the alcohol by volume (ABV) of your fermented beer.
Step 5: Pitch the yeast
At this point, you can add your ale yeast to the wort. Remember, we are brewing an ale-style beer, which is the best for making butterbeer.
Before adding the yeast, shake the fermenter vessel for a few minutes to oxygenate the wort. Yeast needs oxygen to consume the sugars in the wort to produce CO2 and alcohol.
It is also a good idea to check the temperature of the wort before pitching your yeast. Ideally, you should add yeast when the wort temperature is below 70°F.
Activate the yeast by mixing one packet of yeast with ¾ cup of water at room temperature and let it sit for 15 minutes. Pour the activated yeast into the wort and give it a quick stir.
Seal the fermenter vessel with its lid, and insert the airlock and bung. Fill the airlock with water to prevent air from getting in and mixing with the beer.
Step 6: Leave the wort to ferment the
Place the fermenting vessel in an out-of-the-way location where the temperatures don’t vary too much and are preferably in the range of 62°F to 66°F.
Within 48 hours of pitching the yeast, you will notice bubbles rising in the airlock; this indicates that fermentation has begun. Leave the fermenter vessel untouched for up to 2 weeks to allow the wort to ferment into alcohol.
Step 7: Bottle your beer
Once the fermentation period is complete, take the gravity reading of the beer about three times over a day or two to determine the final gravity reading, This will tell you the ABV content in your freshly brewed beer.
At this point, you can go ahead and bottle your beer. Here is a nice resource on the best way to bottle homemade beer. Do check it out.
Now that you have your beer, you can move on to make butterbeer.
Step 8: Cook the beer
Pour the beer into a saucepan and heat on medium. Add freshly ground cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, ingredients that will give the butterbeer a nice, earthy aroma. Stir continuously as you bring the mixture to a boil.
When the mixture comes to a boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer on low. As you continue to heat, the beer and spice mixture will lose its froth and become clearer.
Also, keep in mind that the more you simmer, the more the beer loses its alcohol content. If you want an alcoholic butterbeer, shorten the simmering period to about 10 minutes on low heat.
Step 9: Mix egg yolk with sugar
In a medium-sized bowl, combine egg yolks with sugar and beat using a ladle or immersion blender. The egg and sugar mixture should achieve a fluffy and creamy consistency. You can adjust the amount of sugar depending on how sweet you want your butterbeer.
Step 10: Add the egg mixture to the spiced ale
Remove the mixture of ale and spices from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Then, slowly pour in the egg and sugar mixture and stir continuously until everything is well combined.
Put the saucepan back on the heat and simmer on low for about 5 minutes to thicken the liquid. Do not allow the mixture to overheat, as this will burn the sugar and turn the yolk into scrambled eggs!
Step 11: Butter up the mixture
After simmering the mixture for 5 minutes, remove it from the heat and set it aside. Immediately, add a piece of butter to the mixture and allow it to melt. Turn the heat back on and continue to simmer on low. You are now getting closer to the end of the process of making butterbeer.
Once the butter melts in, use a balloon whisk to ‘beat’ the mixture until it turns into a frothy, creamy beverage. Throughout this process, the mixture should be simmering on low.
After whisking the spiced ale and egg mixture, remove the saucepan from the heat. Set the buttered beer aside to cool to room temperature.
Serve your buttered beer in small glasses and enjoy your drink while it is warm. Cheers!
Add chilled whole-fat milk to give the butterbeer for a richer froth and stronger butterscotch flavor if this is something you’d want in your beer.
Although buttered beer was traditionally drunk warm, you can add a modern twist to it and chill overnight in the fridge. This make will make for a comforting drink on a hot day.
If you are preparing butterbeer for young adults, you can reduce the alcohol content by simmering the beer for 20-30 minutes.
We love to make butterbeer because not only is it a deeply flavorful beverage, it is versatile enough to be enjoyed as a warm nightcap and as a chilled thirst-quencher on those sweltering afternoons.
While you can use store-bought ale, home-brewed beer is always best as you can control the flavors, aromas, bitterness, and even sweetness.
The freshly brewed beer combined with clove, nutmeg, and ginger ladled in butter brings out unmatched caramel and winter flavors that make this style of beer very drinkable.