Consuming George Washington’s Beer

Last night I tasted history– or rather, I sipped it, in the type of a glass of beer brewed from George Washington’s personal recipe. That’s right, America’s founding father was a devoted house maker (not to mention a whiskey distillery owner), and in 1757 at the age of 25, he scribbled his dish for “Small Beer”– an English-style porter– into a notebook for referral and safekeeping.

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Today that recipe lives at the New York Town Library, where it becomes part of their massive archival collection. In celebration of the 100th birthday of the library’s flagship building on 42nd street, they coordinated with Shmaltz Developing Business (understood for their HE’BREW Beer and Coney Island Craft Lager lines) to unearth Washington’s historical beer recipe and bring it back to life in the form of Perseverance’s Founding Father Brew.

GW’s variation called for boiled bran, yeast and molasses, making it sound more like Sylvester Graham’s breakfast than a tantalizing brew. Shmaltz Developing Business’s Jennifer Dickey confessed that when she first attempted to brew the dish as written, it was overwhelmingly syrupy and bitter– more like mead than beer. Like other dishes of its period, the guidelines are vague, irregular in their formatting and presuming a lot of prior beer making experience on the part of the reader– though Washington does offer some valuable pointers, like allowing the boiled beer to “stand till it is little more than blood warm” prior to adding yeast.

httpswww.saveur.comsitessaveur.comfilesimport2011images2011-057-george-beer_300.jpg< img width="246"height=" 300 "src="https://stg.saveur.com/app/uploads/2019/03/18/NHQGCVOZTOJ6G73SNU2SM4TM5Y.jpg"alt="httpswww.saveur.comsitessaveur.comfilesimport2011images2011-057-george-beer _ 300. jpg"/ > DCIM100GOPRO Not remarkably, brewers Pete Taylor and Josh Knowlton, who invested last summertime at Shmaltz’s nano-brewery on Coney Island, took a couple of liberties when recreating the brew for public consumption. They kept the molasses, though significantly less of it, and added Brown Malt and Northern Maker Hops to ramp up the beer’s depth and complexity. The resulting porter is an abundant cherry-brown with a sweet, roasty taste, mellow carbonation (the alcohol content clocks in at just under 6%), and a mild, tasty surface.

Taylor and Knowlton brewed a modest 30 gallons (about two kegs worth) of the beer in overall, which will be served at a gala honoring the New York Town library’s centennial next week. And with any luck, they might just be encouraged to run a 2nd, larger production– a tasty toast to hops and history.

Wish to make George Washington’s beer yourself? Here’s the recipe as composed, with a few explanations:

George Washington’s “Small Beer”

To Make Little Beer: Take a big Siffer [Sifter] loaded with Bran, Hops to your Taste. Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall [ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall [ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses [sic] into the cooler & St [r] ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little bit more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea [s] t if the Weather condition is extremely Cold cover it over with a Blank [et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask– leave the bung open till it is nearly wear [e] Working– Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.”

Image: Paul Lin

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