If barley be wanting to make into malt,
We must be content and think it no fault,
For we can make liquor to sweeten our lips,
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.

English ditty, 1630

George Washington’s recipe for Small beer from his notebook

Wandering around the internet, I came upon George Washington’s recipe for small beer. He wrote the receipt in his notebook in 1757 while he was a colonel in the Virginia Militia. I guess being a young guy with a dry whistle, he was fiddling around trying to come up with a decent daily beer.  Of course as a whiskey maker, Washington had no peer, owning one of  the most productive  whiskey distilleries in Virginia. As a general,  Washington boosted his troops’ morale with a daily ration of rum. “The benefits arising from the moderate use of strong Liquor,” he explained, “have been experienced in all Armies and are not to be disputed.”

If someone in the militia is intrepid, perhaps he (or she) might want to try this receipt and share the product with the rest of us. I found this receipt at the New York Public Library



To make Small Beer

Take a large Sifter full of Bran Hops to your Taste. “” Boil these 3 hours. Then strain out 30 Gallons into a Cooler, put in 3 Gallons Molasses while the Beer is scalding hot or rather drain the molasses into the Cooler & strain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. Let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm. Then put in a quart of Yeast if the weather is very cold, cover it over with a Blanket & let it work in the Cooler 24 hours. Then put it into the Cask “” leave the Bung[hole] open till it is almost done working “” Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.

George Washington. “To Make Small Beer.” From Washington’s Notebook as a Virginia Colonel, 1757.
The New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division.

Let us sing our own treasures, Old England’s good cheer,
To the profits and pleasures of stout British beer;
Your wine tippling, dram sipping fellows retreat,
But your beer drinking Britons can never be beat.
The French with their vineyards and meager pale ale,
They drink from the squeezing of half ripe fruit;
But we, who have hop-yards to mellow our ale,
Are rosy and plump and have freedom to boot.

Source: English drinking song, circa 1757