The Punchline

Now you too can drink like a Founding Father

Katharine Crnko May 9, 2011

The New York Public Library has published a handwritten recipe for “small beer” by none other than Founding Father George Washington.

The recipe was created by Washington in 1757 while serving in the Virginia militia, and is found in Washington’s “Notebook as a Virginia Colonel.”

The recipe lists the ingredients as bran hops, yeast and molasses.

“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.”

Transcription courtesy of

Curious about how this swarthy brew might taste? Well, the Coney Island Brewing Company is partnering with the New York Public Library’s to make a batch of Washington’s beer. Titled ‘Fortitude’s Founding Father Brew,’ half of the batch will stay faithful to Washington’s original recipe, but the other half will contain malted barley instead of molasses, a substitution that might make the brew more palatable to modern drinkers.

The concoction will not be sold commercially, but will be offered for tasting on May 18 at Rattle N Hum, a mid-Manhattan bar.

Tastings will also be offered at the library’s 100’s birthday gala on May 23.

In describing Washington’s beer, brewer Josh Knowlton says in the DailyMail “It’s pretty light, pretty dry, medium-bodied but roasty. We used some roasted malts in there so it’s definitely got some of a roasted, chocolaty, little bit of a coffee flavor.”

Would you try Washington’s recipe? If you could pick one Founding Father as a drinking buddy who would it be? Tell us in the comments section.

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