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It’s hard to imagine George Washington as anything but the stoic, grey-haired military commander who led America to independence.But apparently, the founding father was also a tippler and experimental brewer.
Among the pages of a military notebook he kept while overseeing troops in Virginia during the French and Indian war, Washington left a recipe for “small beer,” a porter made with molasses.
In honour of the 100th anniversary of the New York Public Library’s main building, where the original version of the recipe is housed, Coney Island Brewing Co. recreated Washington’s original brew.
George Washington scribbled down his beer recipe while camping with troops in Virginia in 1757.
He never could have imagined that we'd be consuming the same drink at this crowded midtown bar over 250 years later.
Brewer Pete Taylor told us that the recipe, no more than a few lines written on a scrap of paper, took 'a few weeks to figure out.'
Since beer making is an exact science, it took loads of experimentation to determine the right ingredients and ratios.
The first step, 'Take a large Siffer full of Bran Hops to your Taste,' would be enough to confound most brewers.
And the direction to 'let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm'?
The recipe, part of one of Washington's military notebooks, has been in the New York Public Library's collection since 1918.
One of the biggest challenges for the brewers was to figure out the right ingredients, since hops and grains available today are of such high quality.
'I'm pretty sure Washington was literally foraging in a forest for hops,' Taylor told us.
The recipe also relied heavily on molasses as a source of alcohol; something Taylor told us would not be done today.
In the end, the brewers used a combination of Brown Malt, Northern Brewer hops, and rich molasses to produce the beer.
The brewers ultimately made two batches, one with molasses and one without, and combined them.
They made just two kegs worth -- one is on tap at Rattle N Hum bar in midtown Manhattan.
The other will be served at a gala celebrating the 100th anniversary of the New York Public Library building next week.
The brew, a porter that's 6% alcohol by volume, had a clean body and a strong end flavour of molasses.
It was surprisingly tasty, but a little too sweet to drink a whole pint.
George Washington may have enjoyed brewing beer as a hobby, but towards the end of his life, he actually ran a successful whiskey distillery out of his home, Mount Vernon.
He mostly made rye, along with small amounts of brandy.
The distillery was recently reconstructed and a group of master distillers recreated Washington's original whiskey.
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