I have a great pal with whom I have a recreational and professional interest in events in the Mohawk Valley of New York from around 1750 to 1785 and particularly William Johnson or rather Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet of New York. Johnson was the landowner whose tenants become rather successful Loyalist soldiers under Sir John Johnson, 2nd Baronet, who kept upstate New York largely in British hands during the American Revolution. But for that little thing called the Treaty of Paris, they would have had no reason to become the founders of my town Kingston and thereby the founders of Ontario and thereby in significant part the founders of modern Canada by being the first British colonizing settlers on the Great Lakes.
What am I going on about? You will recall that Albany Ale discovery indicating that there was a sea trade of strong ale out of New York’s capital city from roughly 1800 into the middle of the nineteenth century. Well, my pal had the ability to do a quick word search through the papers of William Johnson looking for the word “beer” and, in addition to a reference to “Hyson tea” which is also along side Albany ale in the Newfoundland newspapers of almost a century later, came up with the following classes referenced in his correspondence:
- 1755: two barrels beer of Hend’k Fry,
- 1768: Taunton ale,
- 1772: six barrels of Lispenards beer.
That last reference is neither to the shipper or the wholesaler as this note from the merchants Hugh & Alexander Wallace from Oct. 2, 1772 shows:
…There is no Red port to be got here [at] this time, if any comes shall secure some for you – The Syder (sic) is not yet made, nor fitt to be bought for [at least] a Month. & Mr. Leispinard Says [he] will have the Beer ready to go along with the Syder (sic), at present he says he has none brewed that he would recommend to you. We hope all the things will please you, we have taken all possible care in the Choice of them, & bought them on the lowest terms.
It looks like Lispenard or Lispinard was the actual brewer. And one month later on Nov. 3, 1772, the following is invoiced by Hugh Wallace to William Johnson:
We have put on board Capt. Marsails in Mr. Adams’s care for your use:
6/-/- for 3 Barrl Strong Beer at 40/
4/10/- for 3 Barrl. Ale @ 30/
1/7/- for 6 Barrels at 4/6
7/-/- for 10 Barrels Newark Syder at 14/
0/3/- for Carting ale to the Sloop
Interesting to see three grades of beer being bought but the more interesting reference for me is to “Taunton ale” as it also is referenced in a 1789 meal put on by George Washington as well as in a shipment to Newfoundland in 1810. It is clearly not a reference to something in passing or personal to some particular step in the supply. But what was it?