It's nothing out of the ordinary in today's London to order a glass of earl grey IPA, an imperial pumpkin stout or a wine-barrel aged sour beer. But the capital has seen some far stranger brews in its time. Here are four of the weirdest.
Yes, the special ingredient in cock ale is a cock. We are, of course, talking the poultry version of cock, which was skinned, gutted, parboiled, shoved in a bag then mulled in a vat of ale and spices to form a kind of Christmassy meat beer broth (what do you mean you'll stick to Guinness?). Prevalent in 17th and 18th century London, cock ale gave, claims City of London Pubs (1973), some boozers, like the now-defunct Cock Tavern in Smithfield Market, their name.
For those of you who are a glutton for punishment, here's how to make it:
Take eight gallons of Ale, take a Cock and boil him well; then take four pounds of Raisins of the Sun well stoned, two or three Nutmegs, three or four flakes of Mace, half a pound of Dates; beat these all in a Mortar, and put to them two quarts of the best Sack: and when the Ale hath done working, put these in, and stop it close six or seven days, and then bottle it, and a month after you may drink it.
A beer blogger who's actually made the recipe says the chicken is "surprisingly present" (as opposed to 'surprisingly pleasant'). At least an evening on the cock ale should disperse any late night pangs for fried chicken.
Beer fit for a pharaoh
Five quid for a beer is pretty run of the mill these days but back in 1996, Harrods were trying to flog it for £5,000 a bottle. Well, 999 of the 1,000 bottles of Tutankhamun Ale were sold for £50, but the first of the batch went for 100 times that. Brainchild of the Al Fayed brothers — joint owners of Harrods at the time — the beer was produced from an ancient Egyptian recipe, and recreated "from sediment residues in old jars found in a brewery inside the Sun Temple of Nefertiti, queen of the Pharaoh Akenaten, believed to be King Tut's father". All sounds very exotic until you learn it was brewed at the Scottish & Newcastle brewery in Edinburgh.
Self deprecating lager
Of late, plenty of people have had a strong word or two to say about Camden Town Brewery. In fairness, these guys are totally capable sticking the knife in themselves. In June 2013, the brewery launched a special beer to coincide with an exhibition by abusive-on-demand artist Mr Bingo. It was called — and these are their words, not ours — Camden is Full of Cunts. For a title that packed a punch, the beer was something of a lackadaisical lager (actually it was probably just rebranded pils). Still, we saved one of the empties and it continues to make us chuckle every time we walk past it.
Ice cream beer
Why drink beer when you can lick it? That was presumably the logic of London Fields Brewery, when, a few summers back, they launched a range of beer ice creams: the red ale flavoured Love Not War, golden ale infused Hackney Hopster and the appealing sounding Black Frost Stout. There was also the option to let it melt so you could drink it like a beer milkshake. Hang on, we might just have invented this summer's fad...