A Theory: From Brimstone Alehouse To Burton Ale

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Early this January just past I posted that image above and told you all that it was my new favorite quote about sulfurous brewing waters from around Burton in Staffordshire, England. It’s from The Natural History of Staffordshire from 1686 by Robert Plot. The beer was brewed as a local health tonic but – now as then – I love that it was available especially at theBrimstone Alehouse. Why this particular penny did not drop connecting this post to one that I posted one month before is now beyond me. I posted in my own comments about the first mention of Staffordshire’s sulfurous Burton ale in a high society establishment, the Vauxhall Garden aka Spring Garden, in the nation’s capital of London as described in an issue of The Spectator from 1712. Just 26 years after the reference to the Brimstone Alehouse in the book by Robert Plot. Hmm.

This hit me like a slap on the back of my head as I watched an episode of a Michael Portillo train show Great Continental Railway Journeys on TV. He was at a central European spa, having a steam bath one moment and a mud bath the next. Then he drinks the water. He appears to almost gag. It was full of sulfur. Like the water in Staffordshire 330 years ago. Horrible stuff taken for only medicinal reasons. Made palatable by brewing with it. Double Hmm.

Now, Martyn checked my story about the arrival of Burton ale in the greater marketplace around 1712 and gave it a good hard shake and it appears to be pretty solid, a real myth buster. Which leads to a quandary and a theory. Here’s the quandary. How does this gak water beer from Staffordshire get just one rustic small mention in an agricultural and industrial guide to the county from 1686 and then show up on a very expensive table before the finest of society no earlier and also no later than 26 years later. As you can see above, in each case it is sought out for a quality. But not the same quality.

That leads to the theory. It appears to me to be a bit of a longer distance from the Brimstone Tavern of 1686 to the Spring Garden of 1712 than just the intervening years. What was in the beer itself? Did the brewer of the Brimstone Tavern in 1686 bang in an incredibly high volume of hops to overcome the stated vomit inducing taste of the water? There is no mention that the experience in 1712 was at all unpleasant. Could it be in those 24 years that the hopping technique became refined and the sulfurous waters diluted? Were the waters calmed? I don’t know how I might go figuring out, how to determine if that was the case. But it’s an interesting theory. Somehow, it went from horrible to haute in 26 year.

Georgian Era Long Distance US Beer Shipments


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The main reason I got into hunting for parallels to IPA over six years ago was Pete Brown’s excellent book Hops and Glory. I liked it so much that I posted a review in four parts. It seemed to me that if beer was being shipped to India it should have been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean as well. And as it turned out my hunch was correct. It shouldn’t have needed to be a hunch, of course. This all should have been well researched but, as I have droned on about, there has been a tendency in beer writing to skip the whole research thing and rush to observation. So, we have wallowed in myth. In this post, like the one on how beer was commonly not pale and not smoke-laced before the use of coke for malting, let’s just summarize what is known so that we don’t ever have to slip back into the land of fibs where it takes the latter 1800s popularization of lager to invent the concept of the know-how and practice shipping of US beer over long distances to lucrative markets.

=> First, Taunton ale. As we have known for a few years, Taunton ale was imported in large quantities into New York City since at least the 1750s when newpaper notices for the stuff start appearing. It was brought to NY in the first two decades of the 1800s. It was certainly also in Jamaica in the later 1700s. We do not know how much of it was imported into other colonial communities solely because no one has researched the question as far as I know.

=> nygaz07may1805albanyalehibbertsNext, Hibberts Brown Stout. This stuff is all over the place. Click on that thumbnail. That is a notice from just one store in 1805 stating that they have fifty-five casks on hand with another 498 casks on route. British beer brought in and in bulk. Broadly. Nova Scotia. Texas. Lots of folk were importing. They knew how to put a cask on a ship.

=> And then, porter. As I recently wrote, it “was enjoyed in New York City as an import and then a local product in the second half of the 1700s, before and after the Revolution. The best was “ripe and brisk.” A brewery built in the 1760s by a Hudson River dock was known as the porter brewery for half a century. It shipped to both the East and West Indies. Again, masses of the stuff being shipped in and shipped out.

=> There’s New Haven ale, too. Worthy of its own post, New Haven, Connecticut ale appears in Albany (of all places) in 1802 in an ad that also have NYC ale coming north, too. There was an agency in NYC and some sort of Federalist plot related to the 1803 burning of the brewery. The brewery had enough barley for 1500 barrels of ale when it was destroyed. Scale.

=> albfaulkalbreg18oct1790Plus, there’s southern beer. You see it in the logs. Click on the ad. Brewing was not practical below a certain latitude so brewers like William Faulkner of NYC and Albany shipped to South Carolina… and the West Indies. He died in 1792. Not to mention there was northern beer, too, three decades later. I haven’t even figured out what that was. Except it was shipped in bulk and was intended for trade.

=> And, of course, there’s the entire history of Albany ale in the first half of the 1800s. Enjoyed from Newfoundland to Hawaii. Brewed at a scale that rivaled anything in Europe by mid-century and for decades after that.

=> nyevenpost19dec1823eaglebrewery61crosbyAnd it goes on and on – there was Burlington Ale and Philadelphia Cream. There was all that Philadelphia porter, too. And then there was just those notices for custom batched shipping beer, a purely wholesale product in the 1820s like under that thumbnail. Local and shipping were two distinct and equally valuable markets for the ambitious brewer in the early 1800s. That image way up there? A detail from Vassar’s log in August 1834. Like other every page, it shows how mixed his intended markets were. Why else do you think US ale breweries were built on rivers or near the
sea?

Why wouldn’t US brewed beer and ale be shipped in mass quantities well before the rise of lager? Ship’s beer is a core product. Ship + brewing = wealth. Just like they knew how to make pale ale without smoke fouling, the English knew how to load a ship full of beer for an expedition to the Arctic in 1577, for God’s sake. The Hanseatic League was shipping beer internationally before 1400. Why? Money! Just as with big craft today, every brewery owner has always known that getting past the local market is where the real money is. It’s the goal. The goose that lays the golden egg. When the great American lager breweries begin shipping by rail in the later 1800s they are just building upon centuries of bulk beer shipment under wind and sail. Albany may have been a leader but it was not unique. The more that actual brewing trade research is undertaken the more clearly this will be set out. Guaranteed.

Lemon Beer In Schenectady In The 1830s

schencabinet28march1832lemonbeerI was looking up spruce beer to see how late it was being advertised and came across a small batch of notices from one newspaper in Schenectady New York in the 1830s. By the second half of the 1800s, there are plenty of recipe books that offer homemakers the ability to make a 1.5% alcohol soft(ish) drink for the family based on sugar and essence of lemon. Unlike those household guides, the 1830s lemon beer appears to take its place with other alcoholic beers and not in the temperance drinks cabinet.

The notice of the lost notebook to the right is particularly interesting. from the 28 March 1832 edition of the Schenectady Cabinet, it explains its own purpose – but whoever was keeping track of the debts of this drinker was serving lemon beer along with rum and beer. Or porter, sweet wine, strong beer and New Jersey cider. Premium drinks. Yet, the recipe for ginger beer to the lower right is from 2 May 1818 of Albany Gazette and that looks a heck of a lot like the later 1.5% temperance drinks. Maybe the stuff was both premium and light, a small nod to sensible drinking in the fairly debauched days of James Monroe.

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The Summer Of 1760 Drinks Selection At The Front

robertrogers1776I found the passage below in the 1969 book Rogers Rangers: The First Green Berets by Burt Garfield Loescher. Like you, I was spending my Thursday looking for spruce beer references. The book covers the span of the Rangers operations in the French and Indian War against New France and then later during the American Revolution from April 1758 to December 1783. This passage at page 106 describes two beer related scenes in the summer of 1760 as British and Anglo-American local forces are in camp at Crown Point, New York making preparations to move on Quebec to the north.

…The month of July and the first two weeks of August were a period of bustling activity at Crown Point as Haviland’s army prepared to advance. To encourage the temperance of the men Haviland ordered the Sutlers to put all of their barrels of Rum in the Fort’s Casemate and they were allowed to withdraw a barrel at a time only with an order from the Colonel of each Corps, in the case of Rogers Rangers, Major Rogers. This excellent practice was observed with “good effects” for over a month until July 3rd. The previous day Haviland had decreed that no Sutler should sell any spirits after the evening gun, but two enterprising Sutlers sold the men Beer and Wine. This was revealed when several of the men became hilariously drunk and started a small riot. Upon which the Sutlers’ casks were stove in exciting the following remark from a Provincial witness. “So we have wine and strong beer running down our street. . . ” Unfortunately one of the two Sutlers was one of those attached to Rogers Rangers and he was ordered “To quit Crown Point Emediately and if he, or the other Sutler miscrepeant, George Morris, were found” in the camp or in any Post between Crown Point or Albany they will be whipt and Drum’d out…

On June 17, Captain Brewer “piloted” Captain Jenks of the Provincials with 200 men across the Lake to a Spruce grove that he had previously discovered. Brewer and his detachment of Rangers instructed Jenks’ 200 Provincials in the Rangers’ method of march, thus making the expedition serve a dual purpose – to protect their march to obtain Spruce for Beer, and to make them more effective fighting force for the campaign. Brewer and Jenks returned laden with Spruce, and without meeting any scalping parties.

I have a thing for Major Robert Rogers who lived from 1731 to 1795. Despite remaining loyal to the Crown, he is rightly credited with being the founder of the US Army’s Rangers. “Rogers’ Standing Orders” are still used and his unit is the namesake of the New York Rangers. After Quebec falls, he passes though my town in the autumn of 1760 on something of a commando mission to alert the back country that the English are in charge. I have an annotated copy of Major Robert’s journal. Nerd.

There is more information in the journal on the sutler indecent. A “sutler” was a non-military food and drink vendor that followed an army which, as we mentioned in Ontario Beer, often set up in tents. They were basically small mobile taverns. So, having the civilian booze shack attached to your unit get out of line was pretty embarrassing – especially in the lead up to battle. The order of 3 July was broader that just the sutlers in question.

All sutlers and market people are desired to take notice that they will be served in the same way or worse if they are found to make soldiers drunk or do anything else contrary to orders.

Interestingly, Roger’s Rangers were soon ordered to be in charge of piling wood at the edge of camp all day and keeping it burning all night as sentries. That’ll keep you out of the sutler’s tent and away from the rum, wine and strong beer.

The spruce hunting expedition of 17 June is also pretty cool. Roger’s unit was out on patrol at the time, returning on the 21st with twenty-six prisoners. The less experienced troops who go off for the spruce are gathering the boughs for a healthier sort of beer that was brewed within the camp under orders. In 2008, I posted about the order of General Amherst that details out how it was made. Seven pounds of spruce to three gallons of molasses. Sending 200 soldiers out to gather boughs must have meant they were getting in maybe a few tons. Laden they were.

Spruce beer continues to have its fans well after the wars. Medcef Eden was brewing it in 1785 in what is now the Financial District of Manhattan. The last reference I can find is in a new report of a tavern brawl in 1885, like something you’d expect in a sutler’s tent.

NYC Big Beer Gossip And Newsy Notes 1790s to 1805

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I’ve been trying to figure out how to catch up notes on some of the larger New York breweries* in the 1790s and early years of the new modern nineteenth century. It’s a time of transition and not just in the sense of the changing of the guard. The post-war political and economic confusion was well on its way to leveling out. One factor that was helping were the Napoleonic Wars and Europe’s continuing disruptions. There was a market for grain on the continent and Britain had a bigger enemy to deal with. Still, there was also a changing of the guard. Even though many of the big brewing interests in both Albany and NYC backed the winners, they did not stay in brewing for very many decades after peace broke out.

Among many things, one interesting aspect for me is how repetitive the pattern is in the beer industry. Beer is an easy entry trade that, when done well, eventually offers wealth and perhaps even political power. As we see today in the big craft sell off, it can take time but what doesn’t? Folk with the myopic interest in whatever the PR guy or craft brewery owner is handing out as a story may not notice but brewing is a great way to shift one’s economic class upwards. A business for the ambitious to enter then later leave. Perhaps a summary post will help illustrate what is arguably happening at the turn of the nineteenth century and how similar it might seem to today. Think of it just like a weekly bullet point round up but for a period of time lasting just about the best part of a decade about two centuries ago.

nydailyadv27march1802edensbreweryaFirst, let’s consider the Eden brewery of Gold Street in NYC. Last November, I posted about the brewery of Medcef Eden** on Gold Street just off Maiden Lane. When last we met George Appleby had taken over the place in 1791. Medcef is too prosperous to bother running the place himself. The brewery is located opposite the First Baptist Church on the corner of John and Gold, a bit of a highland location. Appleby is still there in October 1792 brewing his ship’s beer and spruce beer even though he is no longer on the waterfront. On 16 November 1795, right below the report on the price of pork, the Albany Gazette reported the death of George Appleby, remembering his years with former partner Mr. Matlack. In the 19 October 1797 edition of the New York Gazette Eden is selling off his kettles as well as hair cloth, used to moderate the malting and kilning process. The sale is secondary to his reward for the return of “stolen” slaves. Not runaways. Stolen. Medcef Eden Sr. dies in September 1798 and leaves his estate to three executors: Joseph Eden, Medcef Eden Jr and Martha Eden. The site of the brewery was also done by 1802. A notice in the New York Daily Advertiser from 27 March of that year – as shown under that thumbnail – indicated the site had been formerly occupied as a brewery but would take a some level of conversion to revert back to that use. The kids ain’t interested. And arguments over the will, due to the later huge value of his accumulated Manhattan lands, go on for decades. I suspect you will see this sort of thing when hold out craft like Stone gets into the next generation of ownership.

nydailyadv01jan1803brooklynbreweryaThe Brooklyn Ferry Brewery tells a different story. One of grit, determination and successive failure. Almost insistent failure. In January, I wrote about the brewery at Brooklyn Ferry from the mid-1760s to 1795. At that point, the lands and wharf which had been built up by Isaac Horsfield and his sons were being leased out by one Cary Ludlow. The actual brewery was described as Mr. Sing’s. A tenant. Maybe a sub-tenant. In the Christmas Day 1795 edition of the New York Gazette placed R.W Maddock and Co. as brewers on site with cellars for their ale and beer being kept in lower Manhattan. Just fourteen months later in February 1797, the partnership with Mr. William Sing and another behind the “Co.” dissolves and early that summer, Roger Worthington Maddock is selling off the remainder of the term of his lease and all his equipment. The curse of Brooklyn Ferry continues. Ludlow gives notice of the opportunity to buy the brewery and associated lands again in 1801 as well as in 1803, shown above, with a great description of the range of facilities on the site: brewery, malt house, milk house, kiln, wharf as well as a water pump to supply ships at dock. Still, it was cursed. Lesson? The brewery, the brewery owner and the brewers are very different classes of thing. Pay attention today to how many craft “brewers” never did the actual work of brewing.

nycommadv26jan1799greenwichbrewerysaleThe end of the era of Lispenard’s famous brewery on the Hudson displays how the right combination of Eden’s wealth accumulation and Brooklyn’s parade of brewers can catapult descendants into decades of idle wealth. Last month, I showed how the Rutgers clan through most of the 1700s controlled a four brewery conglomerate stretching across Manhattan from what is now Tribeca south across Maiden Lane and over to Corlear’s Hook served by two farms and water from two drainage systems as well as the natural creek for which Maiden Lane is named. I lost steam at the end. In October, I wrote about the Lispenards and they married into the Rutgers dynasty when Leonard met Elsie. Their son, Anthony Lispenard, takes over the operations of the Greenwich Street brewery on the Hudson River at the foot of what becomes Canal Street. He marries well. Sarah Barclay is related to the brewing Barclays of London, England. I brought the family forward to the fire of 1804 and past it when their fortunes were made on the lands that, as we see so often, the brewing wealth allowed them to obtain but more detail can be added. In 1794, the brewery is described as brewing ale as well as table and spruce beer and Marston has joined Lispenard – Leonard Lispenard, son of Anthony. Three years later, Marston has the place up for sale even though it is occupied by a Mr. Wilson. Another two later in 1799, the brewery is up for sale again and again it is being sold by Thomas Marston. It is described as being in the rear of Trinity Church*** and “lately tenanted by H. Wilson.” It covers two lots on Greenwich and two on Lumber Streets. In March 1803, it is up for sale and described as being the brewery of Anthony, the father, despite the son Leonard being brought into the firm in 1794. John S. Moore occupies the brewery at the time of the December 1804 fire. As I showed last fall, the tide of wealth catapulted those that followed into high society throughout the 1800s.

nydiary31jan1793rutgersAnd then there was Henry Rutgers. Rutgers, you will recall, is the second or third cousin of the Lispenard controlling the Hudson River brewery as the 1800s dawn, depending on whether it is father Anthony or son Leonard we are talking about Lispenard-wise. He is a classic great American who leaves the fortune which founds Rutgers University in New Jersey. I sketched the story in February but let’s fill in a bit more. As you can see from the thumbnail, Henry was moving on from running the brewery as early as January 1793. In 1795, he is elected to the hospital board, sits on a committee considering an international treaty and has diversified commercial interests. In late 1796, he chairs a Congressional nomination meeting. By 1799, he is a leading partner in the purchase and sale of the Watkins and Flint tract. The wealth generated over generations of brewing has made him one of the richest men in the young United States. That’s his family’s house up there well before this point. It was where he lived until 1830. Likely no one has ever moved from brewing to billions and power quite like this one man. I’d be interested in thoughts of anyone comparable.

nydailyadv25july1792rhinelanderOne New York brewery seems to try to buck the trend in the period 1795 to 1803. Unlike the various forms of end-of-brewing we see with Rutgers, Eden, Lispenard and even the brewery that couldn’t die in Brooklyn Ferry, the brewery that started as an 1760s plaything for George Har(r)ison, spoiled son of Francis the high placed colonial lackey of the Crown. After George dies in 1773 and the Revolution comes and goes, the brewery is in the hands of grandson, Richard. Richard reinvents himself as an ardent Republican and, like the others, leases out his brewery in the 1784 to Samuel Atlee who does not last even into 1788. The brewery itself, however, has at least one more life to live. In 1790, it is in the hands of a new partnership – Robertson, Barren and Co. It doesn’t last. Click that thumbnail. By 1792, the brewery is in the hands of Fred and Phil Rhinelander who, by 1795, who are (delightfully) selling gin alongside ale and porter. Six and a half years later, operations at the brewery change hands again as John Noble and Co. announced in the 10 December 1801 edition of the Mercantile Advertiser that they have taken the extensive brewery lately occupied by Messers Rhinelanders in Greenwich Street.” It is one of the more exciting beer notices from the era as it claims they “have been long accustomed to prepare” porter for the East and West Indies. Porter produced for export. The notice is titled “Porter Brewery.” It lasts, again, just a few years. Noble’s entire stock is sold off at an auction by his creditors in April 1805. Interestingly, the Rhinelanders’ other business kept going – including the importation of spices – until Frederick passed away. After that the lands start to be sold off at the same time city government decides to clean up this part of the Hudson shoreline. Their sugar house, however, lasts until 1968.

Things pass. The landmark that was Widow Rutgers’ burnt brewery of Maiden Lane is not the only end of these things. Eden, the Brooklyn Ferry brewery, cousins Rutgers and Lispenard as well as Harrison’s plaything are all gone. The backbone of the entire City’s brewing for at least the last half century pack it in by the middle of the first decade of the 1800s. It is not just that the good water is disappearing. The scions of the generation are as well. Plus, they have made their millions and the community needs their lands anyway to house the flood of new immigrants coming to make this the greatest city on the earth in the history of humankind. Arguably. In 1790, there are 33,000 people in New York City. In 1810, there are almost three times that. There is simply no place – no space – for the big dynastic brewers who dominated the southern tip of Manhattan, including some whose families had been there for most of the previous two centuries.

*Soon, the small brewers of 1795 to 1805.
**Last Saturday, fellow traveler beer historian Gerry Lorenz at the Shmaltz taproom in Clinton Park, NY made a good point after we realized we were pronouncing many of these brewers names differently. He is of the opinion that what I was pronouncing as “Med-seff” was actually “Met-calf” as in Metcalf, Ontario. Could be but I now need to explore the name as a Yorkshire artifact of the 1700s to make sure.
***That’s the first Trinity Church.

Driving Around Albany With Craig And Ron

 

realm1Not just Albany. Delmar, too. Delmar! Land of Craig’s youth. We sat at Real McCoy with owner and sign maker Mike Bellini and his pal Jay, a pro ciderman. I like a one-person brewery. Ron said it was the set up he dreamed of for himself. He was preaching the double brown gospel. Research. Comparing notes. Overly precious hipster nano failure v. single hop and malt explorations. The height of barley stalks and why. Maybe. Local hops were passed around. Forgot to mention the spruce beer idea, that coniferous flavouring predates DIPAs in the repetior.

realm2Everywhere we go Canadian malt is the backbone of NY craft brewing. Good to see. It’s good to be helpful. Definitely some sort of brown ale revival going on. And local ciders everywhere. 2014’s fruit salad obsession may just be history. Wouldn’t that be nice. Yesterday, Gerry L. was with us for a couple of hours and was corroborating and filling in gaps in 1700s NYC. And backdating schenck and lager. Was it just a new word layered on existing practice before the Panic of 1837? Maybe.

More nerdism this evening. Trains, canals and marketplace expectations. You don’t advertise in a paper to the neghbourhood customers. Not in the 1790s. No way.

In 1795 A New Brewery Opened in Cooperstown

nyotsegoherald18sept1795morganmulcockcooperstownStanding in the mid-1790s looking forward in time, I have a sense of things changing in the history of New York brewing. I am a bit concerned that in a few years I will be facing a confusing mass of information coming at me too soon, from too many directions. Still, for now as the frontier just begins to fill there are stories which are manageable. We certainly understand the situation in Albany and in New York City itself at 1790 where long standing families still controlled the market as they have for generations. Soon these dynasties will be outnumbered as new immigrants arrive, some close up sensing change. Others struggle with the coming grim reality. As the frontier lands begin to be populated and repopulated in the first decade after the American Revolution new breweries open in new towns. We have seen breweries opening to the northeast of Albany in Galway and Stillwater in the 1790s. There is one more in Kingston advertising in January 1795 and another posting a notice in Troy the next month. We have seen how beer shows up in the last years of the decade in western New York related to the colonization coming up from Baltimore along the Susquehanna which flows to the south. And in 1795, a brewery opened in Cooperstown.

Historian Alan Taylor won the Pulitzer Prize for his book William Cooper’s Town in 1996. Like the colonization of the Conhocton via the Susquehanna centered on a new town, Bath, the creation of Cooperstown was an example of one land owner developing a district and a community as a personal investment. Unlike at Bath, Cooper did not depend solely on his agent and was personally involved. And that, as Taylor explains, included building a brewery:

An even more significant proof of Cooperstown’s advancing civilization was that beer, as well as water, flowed in the village by early 1796. As in the maple sugar production, William Copper encouraged a brewery as an act of both social benevolence and economic service. During the 1790s many enlightened gentlemen promoted the drinking of beer and ale as antidotes to Americans’ swelling consumption of the more ardent distilled liquors associated with alcoholism, poverty, and violence. In New York City Cooper met and recruited Walter Morgan and George Mulcock, English immigrants and brewers who removed to Cooperstown in the spring of 1795. Extolling the projected brewery as a patriotic and philosophic manufactory,” Phinney’s newspaper asked and exhorted the locals: “What shall we do? Drink beer, till we are merry.”

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The enterprise takes off with great hope. Up top, the notice in the 18 September 1795 edition of the Otsego Herald in which the brewers offer the highest price in cash for any quantity of barley. They hope to brew so much that farmers of the district not have to export it out of the county. The clipping to the left looks like a letter to the editor. It’s from the paper’s 9 October edition and seems to oppose the development, the drinking and being merry line being sarcastic. The notice in the middle from October 30th describes a fairly significant operation. The brewery 83 by 25 feet with a 19 foot high roof line. Taylor states that Cooper invested over £270 in the construction. He was also building a library, a school and a lodge for the Freemasons. The brewery caught fire in December 1796 but was saved when “the villagers rushed out to subdue the flames.”

It did not last as first envisaged. By April 1797, George splits town and partner, Walter, dissolves the partnership based on the defection as you can see from the notice at the right up there. It probably was not entirely Walter’s fault. In 1795 the district had a booming grain growing economy feeding into the European market ravaged by the Napoleonic wars. By 1797, the Hessian fly was ravaging crops here as it was elsewhere. And there was the Panic of 1796-97. Plus, as Taylor explains, by the summer of 1796 Cooper as Federalist patriarch is facing a younger generation of more republican men of merit who defeated Cooper in his bid for a seat in Congress. It split the community. Perhaps George Mulcock picked the wrong side. Plus a local wave of anti-Masonry bigotry broke out, too, in response to the new lodge. Maybe he was a Mason.

William Morgan appears to have met a bit of a weird end. In 1827, the Governor of New York wrote the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada to state that Morgan had been kidnapped and taken across the international border. A reward was offered of $200 just to for information on his whereabouts. If that in fact is the same Morgan, the man of fifty stories and rabid anti-Mason.

Session 109: Porter And Our Shared Georgian Culture

sessionlogosmFor this month’s edition of The Session, Mark Lindner, the Bend Beer Librarian has asked us to write about porter:

There are English porters, Brown porters, Robust porters, American porters, Baltic porters, Imperial porters, Smoked porters, barrel-aged variants of most of the preceding, and so on. With as many variations as there are it is hard to believe that porter is perhaps a neglected style. Then again, it did disappear for a while [see Foster, Porter, and others]. Of 14 beer people asked about overrated and underrated styles three of them said porter was most underrated and no one suggested it as overrated in our current market climate. [Yes, I know that is from Thrillist; feel free to ignore it.] I would like you to sit down with one or more porters of your choosing. Pay a few minutes attention to your beer and then use that as a springboard to further thoughts on the style.

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Click on that image. It’s from the commonplace book of William Maud, evidently of Wetherby, York, England, b. 1787 who served as a customs official in Great Britain; he was employed at the excise office in Leeds in 1830. In his note book he keeps track of things of personal interest like Egyptian history and the excise table. On page 135, he wrote down two recipes: strong porter and common porter. He was likely taking an interest as the district excise man in the business of those who paid him taxes. The 184 year old jottings of a curious unfamous man.

There is so much going on. Both the common and strong porters are built upon a bit more porter malt than pale malt. The strong porter calls for Clay hops, which I now know from this 1855 agricultural journal was a rather rank hop that had particular preserving qualities. Which is interesting as Maud notes that the amount of hops you use depends on “the length of time you intend to keep the porter in the vats.” I am not sure that I had understood the word “cleanse” to mean the primary fermentation dropping clear. Notice he records that cleansing the common porter is accomplished by raising the temperature of the primary from 71 to 77 degrees. His conclusion is wonderful: “this is all wrought in the Punchin”! As with porter so with life.

Porter is Georgian Britain’s gift to us all. It comes in many forms. It was enjoyed in New York City as an import and then a local product in the second half of the 1700s, before and after the Revolution. The best was ripe and brisk. It survived both sides of that civil war. As we wrote in Ontario Beer:

The day book of tavern owner Abner Miles from 1798 illustrates drinking preferences of the governing elite who spent this a English money. Merchants Hamilton and Cartwright along with Commodore Grant and Chief Justice Elmsley along with many others are noted drinking a wide range of strong drinks with their meals and afterwards. They drank an impressive number of bottles and bowls of white wine, syrup-punch, brandy, rum, port, madeira, gin sling and sour punch along with mugs of beer and bottles of porter. The variety of drink indicates that, at least for the elite, tastes were as varied as imports from throughout the British empire and beyond would allow. The imported porter also illustrates a commercial connection to imperial and global brewing that continues to the present.

It does continue. I am having a Fuller’s London Porter as I write this. The grainy dusty texture of the malt so chocolately good. The hops twiggy minty good.

The Earth Turns Again And All Of A Sudden…

Previous celebrations: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013,2014 and
2015. Unlike last year, this March comes in after a soft winter. Plenty of warm stretches and only one heavy dump of snow in mid-February. No viral plagues. In the furnace room, weights were lifted and planks were even planked. The season’s seeds have been in hand for weeks with the package of parsnips showing up just yesterday, last year’s crop a few weeks from harvest once the thaw comes. Maple soon.

None