"A Bit of Beer History"
This month column was written by Bob's friend and beer historian
As a history teacher I take special pleasure in researching our
nation's long and sometimes strange love affair with beer, though
most of us would not call what was made in colonial times beer at all.
Take for example, the very popular "Flip," a mix of a strong beer-like
liquid plus substantial amounts of sugar, molasses and dried
pumpkin. Not for me, but Flip was the dominant drink in many early
American taverns, especially in New England.
If that's not enough to upset your stomach, early colonists often
brewed beer from (or flavored it) with, carrots, tomatoes, onions,
beets, celery, squash, corn silk, dandelions, and goldenrod. To get
an attractive foaming effect, rum, and eggs were usually added to
Because of these types of beer (or maybe in spite of it), tavern
owners were quite respected. In fact, in many colonies they
enjoyed even higher social status than did the clergy. To many of
the colonists beer and Godliness went hand in hand. To prove the
point, colonial taverns were often required to be located near the
church or meetinghouse. It was not uncommon to even hold
religious services and court sessions right in the major tavern of
For many colonists drinking to begin even before breakfast and it
continued with every meal throughout the day. Seldom did anyone
pass on the opportunity to down an ale since it served as both
nourishment and refreshment throughout their long work day.
Most of the colonial beers were probably around 6.5% ABV, and
tasted akin to a modern Scotch. But there were also "speciality"
brews. Perhaps most unusual was a high-proof "groaning ale" for
pregnant women to drink during labor. Colonists rightfully
considered beer in general to be a healthy drink. In fact, alcohol
abstainers often had to pay their life insurance company premiums
that were 10% higher than that of drinkers.
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson all
enjoyed home brewing. While there is some dispute if Benjamin
Franklin actually wrote in Poor Richard's Almanac, "Beer is proof
that God loves us and wants us to be happy" there is no dispute that
it was the prevailing sentiment of many of our Founding Fathers.
In 1789, George Washington put forth his "buy American" policy and
from that point on only drank porter that had been brewed in
America. In that same year, Massachusetts passed an Act
encouraging the manufacture and consumption of beer and ale.
Three years later in 1792, New Hampshire agreed not to tax brewing
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Bob and Friends Speak of Beer......
My thanks to George Palmbreau for this
month's column. See you next time to
"speak about beer".