Thursday, October 1, 2015

George Washington Ordered Growlers?

A few weeks ago a buddy of mine heard a rumor that George Washington had included "growlers" in the list of supplies for his troops. Wanting to find out if there was any truth to this he wrote to the VP of Historic Preservation and Collections at Mount Vernon. Being good folks that they are, they delivered to him a 10-page document relating to George Washington and beer. Alas, there does not seem to be any documentation of him ordering growlers but there were some interesting bits included in the document.

"Take a large Sifter full of Bran Hops to your Taste.-Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Galln. into a Cooler  put in 3 Galln. Molasses while the Beer is scalding hot or rather draw 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 on a quart of Yest [sic]  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 open till it is almost done working- Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed."1

Regarding the above recipe, "Washington was probably a bachelor when he wrote down the above recipe; perhaps he had to concern himself with this task, as well, until he found a wife."2 This was because, "Brewing was generally done either by a housewife herself or under her direction by the butler or another servant and was undertaken every two weeks to once a month."3

Beer may have been a common beverage consumed by all - adults, children, servants and slaves - but that doesn't mean George was drinking it out of just any old vessel. "Special glasses were purchased for serving beer throughout Washington's lifetime.  In 1755, his rather spartan bachelor quarters were cheered by the addition of a "Beer Glass and Pepper Box."  He received twelve "beer glasses, Mugs &ca" from England in 1757, which were augmented with a dozen beer and cider glasses ordered in 1760.  Two sizes of white enameled beer glasses arrived in 1763, while another six were ordered in 1765, with the injunction that they be "handsome."  Three years before the Revolution, Washington placed an order for six more "Neat and fash[ionabl]e Cut Beer Glasses," which he specified were to match a set of decanters.  Still more were purchased on April 6, 1795 and December 19, 1796, presumably for the table in the executive mansion."4

Thanks to my friend, Leafy, for passing this on to me and huge thanks to the Mount Vernon staff for pulling it together. That concludes today's history lesson. Now get to happy hour and impress your friends with your new-found knowledge.

1 George Washington, “To make Small Beer,” [1757-1760] (manuscript, New York Public Library; typescript, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)
2 Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, 17
3 Paston-Williams, The Art of Dining, 220; Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, 17; Dorothy Hartley, Lost Country Life (New York:  Pantheon Books, 1979), 192-193
4 Ledger A, 2/1/1755, 19a; Orders & Invoices, 8/1757, 9/1760, 4/1763, and 9/1765; George Washington to Robert Cary and Company, 7/15/1772, The Writings of George Washington, 3:92.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Guinness Goes to the Hops

Guinness is rolling out a new product in the U.S., Nitro IPA, in nitrogenated cans and on tap at select bars. The beer is a part of Guinness' The Brewers Project in which six brewers are exploring new beers at a pilot brewery at Dublin's St. James's Gate.

At a preview dinner last night two Guinness employees talked about the beer, noting that the company values balance in their beers. While the beer is brewed with five hop varieties - Admiral to start, Topaz and Celia in the whirlpool, followed by Challenger, Cascade and more Topaz for dry-hopping - they were clear that this is an Irish IPA, not an American IPA. This is a particularly important distinction for hop heads like myself that are used to a strong hop punch from their IPAs. The combination of being an Irish IPA, being served on nitro - which tends to mellow the hop bite of any beer - and being brewed with the same proprietary, 100+ year old yeast strain used in Guinness stouts makes for a beer that one might be more pleased with were it called a Pale Ale instead. It's a simple fact that there are expectations based on style and when a beer doesn't meet that expectation the overall impression may be less than stellar no matter how well made the beer is.

When asked about who the brewers hoped to reach with this beer, they said it wasn't developed with a particular segment of drinkers in mind. I'm certain they're hoping to tap into both the pool of IPA fans they hadn't reached in the past as well as those who are classic Guinness stout fans. Whether each pool will be hooked will be interesting to see as it likely won't be hoppy enough for most IPA fans and perhaps too hoppy for stout fans. Either way, one cannot dispute the visual appeal and silky mouthfeel the nitrogen widget, developed by Guinness in 1988, produces. And at the suggested retail price of $8.99 for a six pack of 11.2oz cans, it is an approachable price point.

Seeing that it was a "dinner" you might be wondering how the beer pairs with food. My overall impression was that it is a good "with food" beer. By that I mean that while the beer didn't pop or make any of the dishes pop, it also didn't distract from, clash with or overpower any of the dishes either. Even the dessert, Guinness Pot Au Creme, which I hoped would be served with stout, remained delicious with the IPA. A sessionable - 5.8% ABV - beer, it is one that could easily consume a few pints of during the course of dinner, or an evening. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Let the Feasting Continue

Hello, friends. I've finally pulled out of my Feast Portland-induced food coma and I'm back to share a few things that Feast not only opened my eyes to, but can still be had even though the Feast party is officially over.

Nuvrei Matcha Chocolate Almond Croissant & Widmer El Injerto Pale Ale
Coffee and pastries are a no-brainer combination and while a beer might not be on the docket for weekdays, this would be a hell of a way to start weekend day. Located in the North Park Blocks area, Nuvrei offers savory and sweet pastries, any of which, if this particular croissant isn't up your alley or isn't available when you go, would likely be lovely with this coffee beer. Your best bet to get the beer is to visit Widmer's pub and get a growler of it.

Pip's Original Honey and Sea Salt Doughnuts & Stumptown Nitro
I was a Pip's virgin before Feast Portland and unaware of the amazingness of their doughnuts. They're like the hot, fresh ones from childhood fairs, the way I remember them tasting (although those doughnuts would undoubtedly not taste as good as my memory). They need no more than a drizzle of honey and a dash of sea salt to shine. And like the last pairing, albeit a non-alcoholic version, coffee and sweets are a no-brainer. Cold-brew fans should grab a can of Stumptown's Nitro, an incredibly smooth cold coffee, and enjoy bites of hot doughnuts alternated with cold, creamy coffee.

Annie Pies Salty CocoaMello & Two Kilts Scottish Ale
Scottish ales tent to be a bit malty and sweet for me on their own but Two Kilts Scottish Ale is a great compliment to Annie Pies Salty CocoaMello. Enjoy this for yourself by visiting your local New Seasons Market to pick up a half dozen (more if you intend to share) of these salty, chocolate bites to go along with the conveniently portable cans of Two Kilts, available at many retailers.

Dave's Killer Bread The White Thai Grrr Sandwich
Their entry for Thursday's Sandwich Invitational, it's a deceptively combination that might not have much curb appeal but once it's in your mouth you'll be a believer. Making your own is simple: grab a loaf of Dave's Killer Bread White Done Right, a jar of Eliot's Adult Nut Butters Spicy Thai Peanut Butter (at most New Seasons and Whole Foods), a jar of orange marmalade and pull that bottle of Sriracha out of the fridge. Eat, enjoy, repeat, adjusting the ratios to your personal preference, until one of the ingredients runs out and you have to make a supply run.

Bee Local White Oak Smoked Honey
An easy snack (or dinner if you're feeling indulgent/lazy) would consist of a baguette, chevre and honey. Use this honey however and I dare you not to eat the entire baguette, all of the cheese and at least half of the bottle of honey. In fact I bet it would make a killer nut butter and honey sandwich.