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Brewing up a bride ale

Firstly I should probably do the announcement, Kate and I are getting married. Letting you in on that little secret might explain the rest of this post :0)

If you’ve read my previous post which talks about the history of women and brewing a lot of today’s post will be familiar territory. If you haven’t read this I would recommend you do so now and then pop back here for the rest of the story.

Beer pairing – women and beer. A history reader

Ok now that you’ve caught up. I’m going to throw some controversial history stuff your way for this post.

There are two camps to this little piece of brewing history but as I’m neither a historian nor have I made any more effort to research this topic than a quick Google search I’m just going to tell a bit of a fun story that I like.

The fun story

It is said that the term bridal comes to us via tradition of the bride brewing a special batch of beer to be sold on the wedding day. Some stories tell this with the bride brewing alone and others with the bride being helped by her close female friends who would be the bride ale party. Guest would pay whatever they felt appropriate for the beverage on the wedding day and that this would go towards the expense of the wedding.

Bridal, bride ale. See the connection.

It was Thomas Dudley Fosbroke, Church of England priest and antiquarian, who claimed in a book called “Encyclopædia of antiquities: and elements of archaeology, classical and mediæval”, published in 1825, that “It was called Bride ale … from the bride’s selling ale on the wedding day to raise funds.” Some history buffs dispute this over the origin of the phrase. They claim that it instead comes from “brýd-ealo”. Ealo or “ale” was being used here in its secondary sense of “merry-meeting at which much ale was drunk” (just as “tea” means both the drink and – as in “afternoon tea” or “high tea” – the meal). Pretty much what we’d now refer to as a wedding reception rather than as a term for a specific beer made by the bride.

However there are a number of traditions around weddings that involve ale which are matter of fact, for instance, one called “running for the bride’s door”.  According to one 19th century writer, in North Yorkshire, after the wedding ceremony had taken place at the church, “there took place either a foot or horse race, the first to arrive at the dwelling of the bride, requested to be shown to the chamber of the newly-married pair, then, after he had turned down the bed-clothes, he returned, carrying in his hand a tankard of warm ale, previously prepared, to meet the bride, to whom he triumphantly offers the beverage.” The bride, in return for this, “presented to the ale-bearer a ribbon as his reward.” I’m not sure our guests would be happy to swap a tankard of our bride ale for a pretty ribbon though but I’ll make sure to put a ribbon in my pocket.

So to our bride ale.

Kate and I decided we’d have a bit of fun and brew a beer together to serve to our wedding guests. We wanted to brew something that incorporated both our beer loves and something that we’ve never brewed before so that it was a bit special. This proved difficult as we’ve pretty much brewed most beer styles.

It also gave us a chance to play with our new toy, meet BrewinHilda.


BrewinHilda is a stunning piece of German engineering encorporating both a heating element and a pump controlled by a programmable computer interface. She is a thing of beauty and an upgrade to my old brewing kit which was Kate’s wedding gift to me.

So with Kate at the helm, our special beer was born.

We are deliberately not telling you what beer style we have gone with as we want this to be a surprise for our guests but the grain bill made for the most interesting looking mash I have ever seen.


It looked like we were making a giant chocolate milkshake.

It didn’t stay that way though, and the usual creamy, frothy malt mixture soon appeared.


What BrewinHilda does that my other brew kit doesn’t do however, is that she uses a pump to recirculate all this loveliness through the grains which act as a filter, so that creamy mixture eventually turns crystal clear.


So that is the beer, can you guess what it is yet?

With the “brides to be” finished creating their special bride ale, it was put to bed. Which is when the yeast had their own special party and created the beast at the back of the cupboard.



So there we go, the story so far. If you check back in August, we’ll share the recipe and tell you what the guests thought of our very special brew.

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