hist-brewing: Odense Old Style Ale

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Sat Jun 3 18:50:07 PDT 2000

    In light of the requests that i have had for simpler, faster
maturing gruited ale recipes i dug through my musty old notes books and
found a rattling good recipe from my ancestral hometown of Odense.
Although it is not as simple as it could be anyone who makes all grain
ales could make it. My chum Finsken went to Odense about a year ago and
found it an inn/museum outside of  town in a display cabinet.  He
somehow talked the owner into letting him translate it and Sorenson
figured out how to adopt it to modern measures.  I'll start out with
Finsken's Translation and show folks how to do it at home with ease in
the next post.
    Oh, the historical bit is as follows: the current recipe was hand
written, apparently in the  late 1400's according  to the curator, and
purports to be  "An old sombel winter ale that is suitable for Christian
folk once the offending wood is discarded and replaced with health
fortifying fir".  I would think that the "offending wood" in question is
likely to be yew or less likely ash.  As to the actual vintage of  the
original recipe or it's religious significance i certainly can't say.

                                                      Old Style Odense

quarter barrel (U.K.)
i think  that's roughly 9 gallons U.S.
Grist Bill :

Malt, type unspecified, i assume pale: 1/2 a  bushel
malt, darkish, i assume brown or amber:  1/4 a bushel
oats, type unspecified, i assume poorly malted or unmalted:  1/3 a


Syrup, fine, i assume pale:  4 pounds
Syrup, smoked?, i assume, dark: 4 pounds


Fir, branches:  a goodly amount
Fir, bark: 3 handfuls


Wood Sage or yarrow "brew", i assume extract : to taste
Hyssop, i assume dried: a cup
blackthorn berries, crushed: a handful
woodruff "sugared & thickened", i assume to be syrup: 2 cups   *see
notes at bottom*
"star spice", dried and crushed: 2 spoonfuls * see notes at bottom*


   " Boil 2/3's or so a barrel of  water along with a goodly amount of
young fir branches till the water changes. After the water is drawn off
set aside the branches atop some clean stones and allow them to dry in
sun. "


    "Take the oats and an equal amount of  barley malt placed in a
kettle and add boiled  water while stirring till a dough like mixture
forms.  Allow the mix to work a hour before adding enough boiled water
to give it a thinner yet hard to stir quality.  After another hour
passes place the hot mix  along with the remainder of  the grist
into an ale tub (i assume mash tun) along with 3 buckets of wood cured
water that is to hot to touch but not twice boiled and stir well.  After
yet another hour passes add enough twice boiled wood laden water till a
"gruel" (what ever is it?) like quality is attained.   Let the new
admixture work for about two hours before before stopping the work with
two buckets of  twice boiled wood laden water."


    "As the sweet liquor is drawn off  the grist take the first  fifth
of  it and boil it along with a handful of  bark, half  the hyssop, half
the star spice and half  of  the fine syrup.  The remainder of  the
sweet liquor is drawn off  on to most of the smoked syrup, stirred well
and allowed to cool.  The sweet and spiced liquor is then casked upon
the dredges of a fine ale along with some bitter brewed yarrow or wood


    "After the ale stops working add the remainder of  the hyssop and
wood sage or yarrow  bittered brew as preferred so as to better the
ale.  Then add the remainder of the fine syrup and bark to the ale after
4 days.  After 30 days pass sample the ale to see if it meets
expectations.  If not add add a bit more bittered brew or perhaps a
little smoked syrup.  After another 30 days have passed taste the ale
again bittering it if  needed.  If the ale meets expectations take the
thickened & sweet woodruff and place it into the cask.  After a week add
the remaining spices and wait a further week before drinking.  If
against hopes the ale taste young wait a month further before
consuming.  This ale is bettered by the addition of  a spoonful of
crushed juniper berries to one's cup several moments prior to


    I have beat my brains out trying to discover what exactly was "star
spice", also know as "stared spice", without success.  Sorenson says
that he heard it was an old Swedish term for Anise but he doesn't have
any academic verification. Finsken says that his old literature
professor thinks that it was a term for a type cardamom but once again
i've no corroborating evidence.
    The issue of  the "thickened & sweet woodruff" is quite trying as
well.  While i am aware of woodruff syrup being around as far back as
the 1600's i am not aware of  the product known as such existing
earlier.  I have read of  an obsolete practice whereby various dried
herbs and/or bark are combined with honey or molasses and boiled in a
greased vessel until a treacle like matter is created.  Unfortunately, i
don't know when such a practice began or when it was first used ales.  I
do however know that Fresian, German and Danish ales were made using
various kinds of  caramelized honey and molasses as far back as the late
1500's for the purpose of lending color and different flavors to ales as
the Belgians and Dutch do today.

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