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The Forefathers of Homebrewing

In honor of the 4th of July, I thought I’d do a little research and throw out some tidbits about our forefathers and their love of beer….

Thomas Jefferson – a Forefather of Homebrewing

According to The Jefferson Monticello website…

“At Monticello, beer [1] was a “table liquor” served during dinner, and Jefferson’s earliest designs for his plantation included spaces for brewing and the storage of beer.”

Bottles used at Monticello to bottle beer – made of clay and glass.

“In the early years of their marriage Jefferson’s wife Martha brewed fifteen-gallon batches of small beer (which has a relatively low alcoholic content) nearly every two weeks. Perhaps with a view toward expanding production, Jefferson’s early plans for Monticello’s offices (the rooms where household services were carried out) came to include both a brewing room and a beer cellar.”

Jefferson took to growing his own hops and malting his own grain.  “Once the malt had been ground, brewing needed to commence immediately. In the fall, Jefferson brewed three sixty-gallon casks of ale in succession.”

“As word spread of the brewing operations at Monticello, Jefferson’s neighbors began requesting his ale recipe, or asking to have their servants trained in beer making at Monticello. ”

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation collaborated with Virginia’s Starr Hill Brewing Company to create the Monticello Reserve Ale.  Tastings were served at Monticello this past President’s Day.  As described on Starr Hill’s website – “Monticello Reserve Ale is inspired by what was produced and consumed regularly at Monticello.  It is made from a combination of wheat and corn, lightly hopped. ”

George Washington’s Beer Recipe

As written by Max Reed, The Gawker, May 4, 2011 11:48 PM

George Washington’s beer, made from a recipe he wrote in his Notebook as a Virginia Colonel.

New York Public Library holds the recipe as part of its collection, and to celebrate the centennial of its Steven A. Schwartzman building, has commissioned the Shmaltz Brewing Company (which makes He’brew and Coney Island Lager) to recreate it. ”

Sam Adams – Namesake in Beer

According to Wikipedia…

“The brand name of Samuel Adams (often abbreviated to Sam Adams, even in advertisements), was chosen in honor of Samuel Adams, an American patriot famous for his role in the American Revolution and Boston Tea Party. According to tradition, he was also a brewer.[3]?

Ben Franklin – Hate to Love Relationship with Beer

From Gregg Smith’s article “Brewing in Colonial America” on BeerHistory.com

“The quintessential colonist Benjamin Franklin described his earliest job in a print shop with frequent reference to ale. As a young apprentice, tending to the needs of the journeymen was one of his foremost duties. A right to take a portion of one’s wages in ale was another custom these displaced Englishmen brought with them. Franklin’s diary repeatedly mentions the times his work was interrupted as he was dispatched to fetch rations of ale. Although this job resulted in his early disdain for the beverage he soon developed a fondness. Even John Adams, first United States ambassador to the court of St.James was a beer drinker.”


Colonial Life Revolved Around Beer

From Gregg Smith’s article “Brewing in Colonial America” on BeerHistory.com

“Early colonists of the North American continent had a fairly simple life. The typical immigrant from England had only three things on their mind: where to get food, how to secure shelter, and when would they get their next beer.”

“Nearly every citizen of the day knew that drinking water could make you deathly ill. Ale drinkers were somehow spared this affliction and therefore most people soon substituted a frequent imbibing of ale over the dreaded curse of water.”

“Most parties landing on American soil would bring with them the equipment and raw materials to begin immediate production of ale.”

“Ale and beer was a major dietary staple in the colonies. Literally everyone partook. It was the common item which spanned generations, from cradle to grave everyone drank beer. Infantswere fed beer and it was especially recommended for nursing mothers. Farmers, laborers, merchants, lawyers, and craftsman all drank beer. It was a common thread in all their lives and this democratic beverage would even play a role of mid-wife in the formation of government.”

“It was not uncommon for drinking to begin even before breakfast and it continued with every meal throughout the day.”

“This homebrewing even had its effect on colonial architecture. Most households added a small brew room onto their living quarters. ”


Beer Quotes from Our Forefathers

  • “Beer , if drank with moderation, softens the tempter, cheers the spirit, and promotes good health.” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” – Benjamin Franklin
  • “I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night” –Benjamin Franklin
  • “Let no man thirst for good beer.” – Sam Adams
  • In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria. –Benjamin Franklin
  • “There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.”-Benjamin Franklin


Happy 4th of July!  Cheer Beers!
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  1. July 3, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    That picture made me laugh. My wife gave me a shirt with this quote on it: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” – Benjamin Franklin

    • July 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      Good one! I think we would’ve gotten along well with Ben Franklin 🙂

  1. July 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

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