Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Beer, More American Than Mom and Apple Pie

Beer has played an important part in American history, and especially during the 4th of July. Independence day wouldn't be complete to most Americans today without downing a few brews alongside a grill full of hot dogs and burgers. In fact brewing goes back to the beginning of the country.

Breweries were owned by some famous revolutionaries, not just Sam Adams, but Charles Sumner, Ethan Allen and Israel Putnum all owned breweries in the newly independent states. The most famous brewer was probably George Washington. Known for his love of Porter style beer, I'm sure he was in his backyard at Mt. Vernon, flipping burgers and knocking back a few on Independence day. Washington once recorded an early beer recipe, which has been preserved in the manuscripts collections of the New York Public Library. Washington wrote:

"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 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 Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[it] & let Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put in the Cask--leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working.--Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.

Beer even has it's moment during the first 4th of July celebrations in Colonial America. According to Stanley Baron in Brewed In America, Philadelphia had its first 4th of July procession, celebrating the ratification of the Constitution, and it turned out to be an "elaborate, lively affair." He wrote, "the brewers were ten in number, headed by Reuben Haines, with ten ears of barley in their hats, and fashes [fasces] of hop vines, carrying malt shovels and mashing oars,... a standard carried by Luke Morris, decorated with the brewers arms, and the motto, 'Home brew'd is best."

Because New York Delegates to their state constitutional convention in Poughkeepsie delayed so long in agreeing to ratify, the celebrations there were held up until July 28th. On that day, though, New York had a memorable parade which "exceeded all previous demonstrations in the country." One of the brewers' flags bore this message: "May he be choked with the grains, or drowned in hot ale whose business it is to brew mischief" There were twenty brewers and maltsters in all who took part in the procession. The motto of the brewers was "Ale, proper drink for Americans."

On this July 4th make sure you enjoy a couple of good beers. It's Patriotic.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy


Mira said...

Hello Jerry,

I'm curious to know if you guys noticed any drop in business at BBC (and other establishments in town for that matter) since the smoking ban kicked in?

Mira --

Jerry Gnagy said...

Hi Mira,

Haven't seen much of a change yet. I talked to a brewer in another city with a smoking ban and he said their business dropped off for a few months then it came back. I guess only time will tell.