Today is February 22. If you didn’t know that Feb 22 marks the anniversary of George Washington’s birthday, that’s understandable.
The holiday presently known as ‘Presidents’ Day’ was originally known as ‘Washington’s Birthday’. Its interesting that it is the first Federal holiday to honor an American citizen, and even more interesting is that it was actually first celebrated on Washington’s birthday in 1796 – the last year of his Presidency.
As the years have gone by, Washington’s Birthday came to include the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, (February 12) and now I think it actually honors the birthdays of all American Presidents. Hence, the holiday known as Presidents’ Day.
Now that we’ve cleared the air a bit, we can get on with the point of this post! Did you know that George Washington was into beer? Not only was the first President of the United States into beer, but he had one of the largest distilleries in the country! He certainly must have known his stuff regarding the brewing arts as he also grew his own barley, harvested his own ice (for beer cooling) and operated a gristmill.
To Make Small Beer:
“Take a large siffer full of bran hops to your taste-boil these 3 hours. Then strain our 30 gall[o]n into a cooler put in 3 gall[o]n molasses while the beer is scalding hot or rather draw the molasses into the cooler. Strain the beer on it while boiling hot, let this stand till it is little more than blood warm. Then put in a quart of ye[a]st if the weather is very cold cover it over with a blank[et] let it work in the cask-Leave the bung open till it is almost done working-Bottle it that day week it was brewed.”
Some of you home-brewing pros should try this beer recipe out, although I’m not sure what the ‘bung’ is that’s being referenced! From what I’ve read, this is an awful-tasting beer, but it would be really interesting nonetheless to pull it off. Anybody want to translate George Washington’s beer recipe to modern-day talk???
Anyway, one of George Washington’s favorite cities was Philadelphia, which in 1776 was the second-largest city in the British Empire. Many important events involved Washington and Philadelphia. Among them were him being appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in May 1775, and in 1797 Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention.
One of George Washington’s favorite places to visit while in Philadelphia was the City Tavern, and not too long ago (the Tavern still exists, although rebuilt) the Tavern worked out an arrangement with Philadelphia’s Yards Brewing Company to recreate Washington’s beer!
Looking at the Yards website, they say that the “molasses-based Tavern Porter™ reflects Washington’s admiration of Philadelphia-style porters and follows a recipe Washington used himself, when brewing beer to satisfy his thirsty field officers.”
I’m just curious what changes (if any) were made to the recipe?
Washington was also responsible for helping kick start the American beer movement. With the ‘Port Act’ in 1774, which closed off the port of Boston by the British, Washington and others supported a bill drafted by Sam Adams (name ring a bell?) called the ‘non-consumption agreement‘. This agreement among the colonies encouraged the colonists to boycott and otherwise not use British goods. This included English Ale which everyone seemed to love!
For awhile there it was probably yummy beers like Spruce Ale. Talk about sacrifice! But to make up for the reduction of British Ale being consumed, American brewers were able to increase their own production to help meet the need.
And the rest, they say, is history.
If you’d like to learn more about George Washington and his connection to beer, check out these interesting links on the subject.