Beer for Breakfast

As people who work outside and next to a fire, we here in historic foodways are happy to see the beginning signs of fall. Fall means a break from the heat and the resumption of some of the activities that we can’t do properly in high heat like brewing and chocolate making.

We will address the chocolate in a future post so here I would like to talk about beer.18-Century Beer

Beer and ale were one of the most loved beverages of 18th-century England and her colonies.

In a world without sodas and energy drinks and all the other beverages we take for granted today, beer served an important role in the beverages of the time. It was the most affordable man-made beverage , and was considered healthy and nutritious. Many Englishmen got a large proportion of their daily calories from it.

It is clear from many references that most people stared their day with some beer. Why did they like it so much? Well, there are a number of factors that led to its popularity.

One — it was safe. Brewers boil the water inadvertently, killing many bacteria and the alcohol prevents others from growing in it.Toby Fillpot

A second reason beer was so popular was cultural. The English loved their beer — They sang about it , wrote about it and drank it in pretty large amounts.

They even had an unofficial mascot pictured here known as Toby Fillpot!

Beer3It was said that more grain was used for brewing then for making bread in England. This leads us to the process of making malt liquors as they were commonly known.




Beer4The brewing process starts with grain that has been malted by soaking it in water and allowing it to sprout, then drying it in a malt kiln.





Beer5The malt mashes for a while, then is separated from the water — now called “wort.” It is this liquid that will become beer.





Beer6The hops are now added to the wort and it is brought to a boil for about an hour.





Beer7Hops are the flower of the hops vine, a member of the nettle family. They will add a bitter flavor and floral aroma to the beer and contain compounds that help to preserve it.

Originally, beer was made with hops and ale was made without them but, by the 18th century, the ale recipes all had hops in them, as well.



Beer8After an hour or so of boiling the hops are removed from the beer and it is cooled so that the yeast can be added.





Beer9The yeast ferments the sweet wort obtained by mashing and boiling the malt, and it produces alcohol and carbon dioxide — which gives beer its kick and fizz.





Beer10Brewing was in the beginning of the century a household chore preformed by women and slaves. By the end of the century the professional male brewers had taken over and industrialized the industry. The taxes paid by brewers provided up to 25 percent of the revenue of the English government.




Beer11If you would like to learn more about beer and see the process of home brewing 200 years ago please come to the Governor’s palace scullery for the program; “the arts and mysteries of brewing.”

It will be presented on September 24, October 12, October 29, and November 19. A basic admission ticket is required.



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5 Responses to “Beer for Breakfast”

  1. September 18th, 2014

    Howard Jordan says:

    Very interesting post. Since water 200 years ago was not always safe to drink, was drinking beer a primary means of hydration then? What was the alcohol content of the beers of Colonial time compared to today’s beers? What about the flavor; would someone used to 21st century beer recognize the Colonial period beer?

  2. September 25th, 2014

    Frank Clark says:

    Hello Howard thanks for your interest. Yes the two most popular beer styles of the 18th century are still with us; porter and pale ale. The primary difference would be in quality and consistency. Since the brewers of the 18th century could not sterilize and sanitize like modern ones their product would be variable. Some day it would be good sometimes it would be sour and most people understood and accepted it.
    The brewers of the period typically made three beers of descending strength. The first batch was called keeping beer and was around 8 to 10 percent Alcohol. It was meant to be aged and used for special occasions. the second running of the mash was often called table beers and would be around 6 percent. The final running was small beer and could be around 3 to 4 percent. this was the everyday drink for many!

  3. October 1st, 2014

    Steve callio says:

    Just stumbled onto the new blog. Great to see it up and running!

    From what I have been able to gather a great deal of 18th century “beer” was made by boiling bran with molasses and hops then fermenting that. Total anathema to a modern brewer but apparently that served as an everyday quaff for many folks. I assume the bran could be residue from just about any milled grained, barley, wheat etc.

    What was a typical size batch of beer made at home in those times?

  4. September 12th, 2015

    Frank Reinhardt says:

    I am a home brewer and have been looking for the recipe for an ale I had at Chownings Tavern in the late 1970’s. I believe it was called Rams Head Ale, and I remember it being one of the best ales I ever put in my mouth. I have checked with the tavern in the past 5 years and they do not recall it and had no suggestions of how to track it down. Can you suggest where I might find old recipes for these ales and lagers? Thanks and keep the Great Info coming!

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