Researching something completely different, we came across this recipe for devilled ale in an 1855 household management guide:
How could we resist giving that a go?
For our base beer, we used the latest Fuller’s Past Masters 1914 Strong X. We found it very sweet in its own right, so figured it wouldn’t become too acrid when warmed, and it certainly sits squarely in the ale tradition, being more about malt than hops.
For the sake of completeness, in case, for some reason, you want to exactly replicate our approach, the bread was 7% rye flour, and the butter was salted. We used ground ginger.
With the ale warmed, and the toast buttered and spiced, we put it all together in Ye Olde Halfe-Pinte Pottes, and got stuck in.
Things we liked: the toast floating on the surface smelled like grains mashing on brew-day; the cayenne gave a really pleasant kick which accentuated the spirituous booziness of the ale; the ritual was fun; and, on a cold night, a mug of warm ale sits nicely in the hands.
Things we didn’t: even this rather sugary beer was too bitter when warm; it got cold quickly, and lukewarm ale is no fun at all.
If we do this again — we probably won’t — it will be with the most sickly sweet ale we can find, and we’ll warm the cups properly first. We’ll also use more ginger, which got rather drowned out by the cayenne, or maybe even use finely chopped fresh ginger, or the stuff that comes preserved and sweetened in jars.
If you try it at home, let us know how you get on.