George Washington’s Beer


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Founding Fathers Porter (my take on a Pre-prohibition Porter)
8 lbs home smoked brown malt, made from Rawr U.S. Pale
2.25 lbs light molasses
3 oz ginger root cut up (15 minutes)
1 teaspoon cloves (15 minutes)
0.5 oz cluster for 60 mins
0.75 oz cluster for 30 mins
0.75 oz cluster for 15 mins
0.15 oz cascade for 10 mins
0.15 oz cascade dry hop
Yeast nutrients
Target O.G. is 1.052
Target F.G is 1.010
A.B.V 5.46%
IBU 38
SRM 40 (estimate because of home roasting)
Total water needed for Mash: 8.39 gallons
Strike water 3 gallons, sparge water 5.39
Boil size (if molasses is added) 7.33
Boil time will be 90 minutes +
Preboil volume: 1.028

First I want to say I’m not a historian or anything like that. I’m an average Joe with books, the internet and the love of beer.
One of the new BJCP styles that caught my attention is pre-prohibition porter. I’ve been doing my own research on the subject. I’ve been more focusing on early American porters, like the style guidelines suggest it’s more like a beer George Washington would have enjoyed. The guidelines states up to 20% adjuncts would be common for this style during the time. While they do list several adjuncts, it seems molasses was the most popular.
When trying to replicate historical beer I’m going to try to replicating the ingredients from the time period. I’ve done research and I still may be missing pieces of how beer was brewed back in the 1700s. To the best of my knowledge I’ll shared my recipe and I’ll explain why I did what I did. You have to remember that our forefathers didn’t have electric dried malted barley like we have today, or have the convenience of the wide variety of barley and hops we do today. Our forefathers had to use what they had on hand.
Light or medium molasses is needed because it’s more sugar concentrated and will ferment out more, plus it seems black strap molasses is more processed then what they would have used. Molasses seems to be a controversial topic with brewing beer. Some home brewers use a lot of light molasses like I am and other home brewers want to use a little black strap molasses. Black strap will not produce good beer because it is very refined, has little sugar and will leave a mineral and off flavors.
Barley at the time was not dried over electric heaters like it is today. They used charcoal and wood. The malt was brown and smoky. To home smoke the malt, I’m going to use a backyard smoker. I’ve already built smoking screens to hold the malt in a similar fashion to what is described in the book “Smoked beer”. In the fire pit of the bowl I’m going to have charcoal and wet wood chips. In my case I have a lot of apple. So I’m going to use that, which may not be historically accurate. So the malt can be dried like in a similar fashion to that of the 1700’s I’m going to soak the barley in a bowl of water for 2 hours or more. Then I’m going to put the wet barley in the smoking screen over the coals and wood for 2 hours. The smoke will dry out the malt and brown the malt too. I didn’t get the browning I wanted so I finished drying the malt out in the kitchen stove for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
In the book “Smoked beer”, the author states that during the 1700s porters were popular to have smoked brown malt. I’m attempting to make smoked brown malt. The heat will darken the malt and I’ll have to keep an eye on the browning of the malt to make sure it doesn’t get burned but browned. As the malt dries, the water is replaced with smoke and this will keep the smoke flavor in the malt.
The use of molasses and ginger is referenced from the “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers:” In the book it is stated that during colony America the use of brewing beer with molasses is common, because it was a cheap source of sugar at the time. Molasses beer was considered an everyday beer, or more commonly referred to as small ale. Our founding fathers also drank beer made from molasses. Do an internet search for George Washington small ale. George Washington and Ben Franklin drank beer made from molasses.
I found an interesting article I’m going to include the link to that a home brewer made John Gaylord II small ale which is made with all molasses and no barley malt. The home brewer then had 10 people to do a taste test of the small ale compared to a Miller Genuine Draft. The test taste looks like it was half and half that liked beer brewed with molasses more than the Miller Genuine Draft. I’m looking forward to brewing with molasses from this test. Some beer drinkers said the beer has more body. I prefer a thicker beer to a thinner beer any day.
It seems like in the early days of American brewing ginger was used as an herb for brewing because it off set the flavor of molasses and preserves the beer good for longer. Much like hops today we know will preserve the beer for longer drinking. I also think this will be a style that will taste better at warmer temperatures than colder.

If I had to enter my recipe into a current beer competition it fits the style category of a robust porter. The SRM is a little high for the style. I would think Pre-prohibition porter would be mostly molasses like my beer has in it, many sources say it was the most popular and cheapest sugar source. That is also just my option. My beer is roughly 22% molasses, and I smoked my malt because I thought it seemed historically accurate. It may mean I’m “out of style” but that’s the fun of brewing, you can experiment and do what you want. Some of the best beers come from taking the style guidelines as a reference point at best.

The beer is thick, smokey and kind of odd, not a lot of hops going on. The molasses leaves a chocolate or light coffee flavor after it is fermented out. Very dark and not clear at all.…rous-molasses/…wn-ale-205968/
Daniel, Ray and Larson, Geoff. Smoked Beers. Brewers Publication, 2001. Paperback
Buhner, Stephen H. Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation. Brewers Publication, 1998. Paperback

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