Fabulous. I think my new best friend is Joseph Coppinger. Sure he published his book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner 200 years ago… but so few people come by these days I don’t care to notice such things. Like Velky Al did a couple of years ago, I came across an online copy of the book as I was looking for something entirely different. [No. No, not that.] And when I did I immediately – well, right after checking out the tanning section – noticed there were a number of recipes for beers. Styles of beers even. A listing of styles. In a two hundred year old book about beer. Odd. I thought that was invented in the 1970s by that Jack Michaelson chap. But, more importantly, he included this:
This quality of ale is by many esteemed the best in England, when the materials are good, and the management judicious.
54 Bushels of the best Pale Malt.
50 lb. of the best Hops.
1 lb. of Ginger.
¼ of a lb. of Cinnamon, pounded.
Cleansed 14 Barrels, reserving enough for filling….This mode of brewing appears to be peculiarly adapted for shipping to warm climates; the fermentation being slowly and coolly conducted: it is also well calculated for bottling.
Yes, there is more. I just used those three dots to keep you focused. He goes on and on in fact. Over thirty sorts of beer and a few diagrams like the one above. A few things. First, it’s a description of how to make Dorchester Ale. The careful – or perhaps the caring – amongst you will recall that two years ago while waiting for Craig in Albany to go for a beer, I wandered into the New York State Library HQ and found a large number of mid-1700s newspaper notices for British ale coming into the new world. And a few of those ads referenced Dorchester ale. So there you have it. Dorchester was a top quality ale with a bit of ginger added. Sounds like quite nice stuff. Second, yes, the book was published in 1815. And it was published in that year by the firm of Van Winkle and Wiley located at No.3 on Wall Street. It is a guide aimed at the trade. Aimed at the trade that wants to know about shipping to the warmer climes. Which means exporting ale from New York state. Two hundred years ago. Third, he goes on. And on. The book has a lot of data. I need to get into it to find out what.
I believe this illustrates a point: the problem with records. Believing you know what things were once like based on the available records is a dodgy game. Things like (i) Gansevoort’s adin 1794 asking for barley for ale as the old state in the young nation was coming out out famine leading one to leap to (ii) a prosperous local brewery to the south in 1808 connecting you to (iii) this guide in 1815’s NYC on how to brew for export (iv) all might lead you to understanding that there was in fact a vibrant but little understood brewing trade waaay before the US Civil War and waaay before the advent of lager’s supremacy. But you have to watch that sort of thing. Because records are dodgy things. But at least we may well know what Dorcester ale was. Maybe. Sadly, no reference to Taunton. Maybe. Probably out of style by then in the New York market. That might be it. Maybe.