A blog that explores the seemingly endless beer options available, and occasionally brings up your Mom.

Monday, February 21, 2011


"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." 

     One of the first to jump on the Buy American Policy, is no one other than our booze loving First President, George Washington. In 1774, Washington supported a bill drafted by fellow patriot Samuel Adams (not a coincidence), called the non-consumption agreement. In an attempt to break free from the Empire, the agreement encouraged the consumption of American-brewed beer and goods, rather than the highly taxes imported goods. Boycotting English imports was effective and was the kick-start America needed to create a booming beer industry. One of Washington's favorite beers was a Porter, brewed by an English brewer (politician and social elite extraordinaire) named Robert Hare. Washington always demanded that there be an "ample supply" on hand at Mount Vernon, his Virgina estate. However, it was not the term Porter that Washington had wrote a historical recipe for, but what he referred to as a "Small Beer".

"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 Molasses 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."

 Preserved in the manuscript collections of the New York Public Library is a notebook kept by Washington. 

Many home brewers have attempted to follow the recipe exactly, but admit their creations were, "positively revolting" or "molasses flavored beer".  Following this recipe precisely would have yielded an 11% ABV beer, which would be a full bodied, very sweet and malty ale, balancing a burnt coffee bitter finish. Here is one of several breweries that has taken to the challenge, and with a couple alterations, has had quite the success with this historical recipe.

Yards Brewing Company's General Washington Tavern Porter. (Revolution Series, 7% ABV) Based on the ale Washington had brewed for his field officers, this Porter is kettle brewed over a direct gas flame. This method causes the ale to boil rigorously, helping to create the rich flavor Washington loved. A clean and mild aroma of roasted malts set you up for the real thing. The taste is rich and smooth, some chocolate and graininess, with hints of fruit and coffee. A nice round mouth feel, that finishes with a slight hop flavor. Yards new brewery is now located just blocks away from the site of Robert Hare's brewery, where Washington's favorite Porter was crafted. A truly historical beer and place!

 Other breweries, continue to make classic English Porters that I'm sure our Founding Father would have enjoyed (American made, or not). Here is one of my favorite classic Porters, that holds true to the real definition of a Porter.

St. Peter's Old-Style Porter (Year-round, 5.1% ABV) This is a true Porter Style. A Porter is technically a mix between three different styles: an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown ale or pale ale) and a weak ale (mild ale). This creates a full bodied ale with a complexity that satisfies a variety of palates. This ale specifically has aromas that are sweet like toffee with hints of roasty malt. A good balance between hints of sweet chocolate, caramel and roasted malt. Very smooth and creamy, with a quick finish that runs away from your tongue. A very drinkable beer, that might make you cut down your cherry tree! (Buy this beer online here!)

Porter today is a category on it's own with several subcategories and varying styles within. Finding a Porter you enjoy will be a fun adventure that makes you feel like a true Patriot. For now, I will leave you with some wise words from some of our past presidents. Happy Presidents Day!

"I have often wanted to drown my troubles, but I can't get my wife to go swimming." - Jimmy Carter

“There's nothing left…but to get drunk.” - Franklin Pierce after losing the Democratic nomination

“I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.” - George W. Bush

“Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.” - Lyndon B. Johnson

"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" - Ronald Reagan
"I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale and never tried it again." - Bill Clinton
"Look, when I was a kid, I inhaled frequently. That was the point." - Barack Obama