"We have already been too long subject to British prejudices. I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America; both these articles may now be purchased of an excellent quality." George Washington
First of all, let me apologize to my 7 faithful readers (8 if you count my mom) for taking so long to get this post written. I'd like to tell you that it was delayed because I was asked to review a controversial portion of the Reinheitsgebot or German Beer Purity Law or that I was called to an emergency meeting of a new beer organization comprised of me, Sam Calagione of the DogFish Head Brewery, Garrett Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery, Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company, Tony Magee of the Lagunitas Brewery and Fritz Maytag of the Anchor Steam Brewery, but I can't. I just couldn't find time to write this amidst all the exciting and crazy end of the school year events that were going on (and of course the need to do some actual work once in a while too).
So, here we go. Hang on for the ride. I've always thought it was cool that many of the Founding Fathers were avid beer drinkers and brewers. Some of it was by neccessity since water was generally not sanitary, and beer was much safer to drink. But much of it was just because they liked drinking beer. I suspect that beer also played a central role cooling tempers in Philadelphia in late June and early July, 1776 during the exceptionally hot summer and heated debates of the Second Continental Congress. Could such a beautiful and timeless document as the Declaration of Independence really have been crafted without early American craft beer? Unlikely.
With the current craft beer explosion there has been a return to many of the historic brewing techniques of the colonies and early America. Brewers are seeking out old recipes and recreating them so we can all try beer that George Washington or Thomas Jefferson might have enjoyed. I think this is really cool and wanted to try some of them.
George Washington was apparently quite the fan of imported English Porter's right up until the point when he basically said, screw the British, I'm drinking American! In 1789 in a letter to Marquis de Lafayette, Washington liiterally could be heard screaming "Buy American"...."We have already been too long subject to British prejudices. I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America; both these articles may now be purchased of an excellent quality." Washington would go on to brew his own Amercian-style English Porter and it has been recreated from his original recipe found in one of his notebooks in the New York Public Library by Yards Brewing of Philadelphia as part of their really cool Ales of the Revolution series. Here is the recipe:
"To Make Small Beer Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of 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 more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very 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 almost don[e] Working—Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed."
Appropriately, I had my first drink of this beer in Philadelphia at the City Tap House. This is a cool bar that my son Sam and his girlfriend Laurel took us to. It has an excellent beer selection, an awesome outside patio and a beautiful green roof planted with wildflowers. The beer was delicious, rich and dark and pretty much everything you could want in a Porter. But not to sacrifice on research, I also had this beer last weekend in Washington, DC just steps from the White House. On this "research trip" I was lucky to share one with George himself on the grounds of George Washington University where my daughter Hannah is heading this fall and where my wife and I met the first week of our freshman year in 1980. As I sipped the Porter, I could almost hear George whispering something about the %&*# British, but then realized it was my wife saying "enough already, get down off of that %$#@ statue!".
Also part of the Yards Ales of the Revolution series is a beer styled after Thomas Jefferson's recipe that he used at Monticello. I had to track this one down at my local liquor store. I really liked this one too. It is somewhat reminiscient of a Belgian beer, high in alcohol, golden in color and a bit cloudy. It defintiely has that "fruity" qaulity of many Belgians and was tasty. I could have easily sat with Tom and pondered questions of American Independence over a few tankards of this beer, before devolving into "I Love You Man" and "thanks for paving the way for an Amercian Craft brew movement 200 years later".
As part of the important and double-blind research for this post, I also tried Liberty Ale by Anchor Brewing in San Fransisco, California. It was first brewed in 1975 to celebrate the bicentennial of Paul Revere’s historic ride and brewed according to historic traditional brewing methods. There is simply no way that Paul Revere didn't immediately grab a beer after dismounting his horse after that long important ride in 1775. Like every other beer I have ever tried from Anchor, this one was excellent.
I also tried for probably the millionth time Sam Adams Boston Lager and for the first time, the Boston Ale. Both are from the Boston Beer Company. The Boston Lager label shows Sam Adams, holding a tankard and carries the note "Brewer Patriot". Say what you will about Boston Beer and whether they are a craft brewer or not, but they brew damn good beers.
And finally, our cousin Michael brought us a six pack of 1634 Ale from Brewer's Alley in Frederick, Maryland. Michael likes to stay at the Hotel De La Moskowitz when travelling on business in New Jersey and pays his bill with beer. Smart kid, really. I'm actually drinking one of these right now as I write this on Saturday morning at 9:36 AM for two reasons. First, I never write these posts without drinking a beer and second to demonstrate to all of my 7 devoted readers that I take this blog and its research very seriously regardless of the time of day.
The 1634 Ale is brewed to celebrate the 375th of the founding of Maryland. I really like this beer and it is perfect for breakfast due to a little bit of sweetness. According to the website, Tom Flores, master brewer at Brewer's Alley, researched historic recipes and raw materials available in centuries past to create this beer. "We used ingredients that would have been found in the austere conditions of early colonial Maryland," said Flores of his rye-based ale recipe that also includes malted wheat, molasses and caraway. Flores says caramel and dark malts round out the flavor of the "lighter bodied ale."