Geroge Washington's Beer Recipe

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Unregistered-1427815803, Mar 30, 2014.

  1. I have made this before, then realized the problem, it's in the changing of the meaning of a word over the past 250 years. Let me start by posting the actual recipe:

    "To Make Small Beer

    Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. -- Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yeat if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask -- leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working -- Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed."

    You can see it there, with all its glorious misspelled words, and here it is in the mans own handwriting:

    Anyway, the time I made it, I used blackstrap molasses. The taste of sulfur in the finished product was so strong, I just couldn't drink it. And, the longer it sat, the worse it got. Fortunately, there was a guy up on the paved road who would drink anything. One day he walked down here, braving the dogs, and asked for a beer. I gave him a Washington beer. He drank it down, I offered him another. Since he liked it, I gave him 60 bottles of beer, only asking that he wash out my bottles and return them.

    Well, years go by, and one day last fall at the farmer's market a guy showed up selling sorghum.

    As it happens, a long time ago when I lived in South Carolina, back in the late 50's, our church had a very large garden spot, possibly 10 acres, that they planted in a different crop every year. One year they grew somesort of cane that was called "molasses cane" and made tons of molasses, which was pretty sweet. But, when I buy blackstrap molasses at the store, it's right bitter.

    So, talking to the guy at the farmer's market, and doing a little research, I discovered that blackstrap molasses is a byproduct of extracting sugar. What we grew, long time ago, was actually sorghum. BUT, it was always called molasses. So, I extrapolated that George Washington, who lived too far north to grow sugar cane, anyway, was actually making beer from sorghum.

    I broke it down to a 5 gallon bucket worth. Not knowing how much hops are in a "siffer" I figure you can use the amount of hops you normally put in 5 gallons, most folks buy the one ounce pack of hops pellets. Incidentally, the main purpose of hops is to impart bitterness. There are many herbs and weeds that serve the same purpose, but I suppose there is no real reason it has to have the bitter taste. Maybe it would be called something else like ale or something.

    So, for 5 gallons of Washington's recipe beer:
    Boil your hops(one ounce of pellets) for 3 hrs. in 4 gallons of water. I have to go with simmer, as opposed to full boil, as the interpretation.
    Strain into the bucket, carboy, or whatever you use.
    Stir in a half gallon of sorghum, until fully blended.
    Let cool to body temperature, then add 1 pack beer yeast.
    Fill with lukewarm water to 5 gallon mark.
    Let it work, and bottle after 1 week, exactly.

    When I made it last time, using blackstrap molasses, the wort(mash) tasted like blackstrap molasses. This time, it tastes like regular beer wort.
    The specific gravity, when cooled, was 1.0375, which should make a beer with 5.1% alcohol content.

    I suppose that I'll melt a little more sorghum into a pint or so beer, once it's done, for my bottling primer. Seems fitting.

    With all the information available on the internet, I'm surprised that it's not a known fact that only sorghum cane would grow at Mt. Vernon, not sugar cane. However, I've not once seen anything to indicate the difference. So, I'm giving the original, real GW recipe to you. Free. I'm making a label for these bottles and calling it "George Washington's Freedom Beer" the logo will say "Freedom ain't freedom if it's not free to all"

    So, here ya go. Next week, I'll know exactly how the finished product tastes. I'll drop back in this thread and let you know.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2014
  2. sherry in Maine

    sherry in Maine Well-Known Member Supporter

    Nov 22, 2007
    let us know.
    I've had sorghum beer before. Others liked it (we shared a couple) but I didn't care about it.
    Tell me if it's good.
    Long ago, I made a 'recipe' of George Washington's beer.....tasted like rotten garbage. (it was the one with pumpkin, if I remember correctly)

  3. Raeven

    Raeven Reluctant Adult Supporter

    Oct 11, 2011
    The Wilds of Oregon
    I do admire the way you make beer, zong. :) I'll be watching closely to learn the results of your efforts.
  4. I've read about mugwort, wormwood, junniper berries, pine needles, spruce bark, tea(20 bags I think, for 5 gallons, boiled a long time to make it bitter enough), heather, and yarrow used as bittering agents, instead of hops. Problem is, most people don't have any of that out in the garden, or in the woods, that seems appealing. Pine needles and tree bark just don't suit most people. It's over an hour, and a hundred mile round trip to the closest place to buy hops, so, if I want to make anything, I either have to be sure I have everything I need, or order in the mail. Won't be no running to the store for some hops, or beer yeast.
    sherry in Maine and Raeven like this.
  5. Riverdale

    Riverdale Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    Gratiot Co, Michigan
    I've used mugwort, sweet gale (known in Norway as 'Hammerhead'), juniper (both boughs and berries) spruce needles, heather and yarrow for bittering agents.

    They are called gruits.

    A slight history, hops where not used until after the Reformation (Martin Luther). Basically, hops where used to replace the other agents.

    As for sweet gale (Myrica gale) it is called 'Hammerhead' for a reason. Just a little too much will cause excrutiating headaches.

    Stephen H Buhner has an excellent book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers that explores many gruits, including cincha and some that you may not want to try (they are physcotropic, like henbane).
  6. EnnisLakeFarm

    EnnisLakeFarm Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2010
    SW Montana
    I wonder if this is the recipe that Budweiser is using in their new beer from George Washington's handwritten recipe?
  7. GTX63

    GTX63 Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2016
    Budweiser is much more concerned with keeping the level of flavor the same than they are with quality.
    Sort of like a McRib really isn't a...well, but it taste the same in Paris as it does in Little Rock.