May 21st, 2011
By Kevin Burns
Sitting down and enjoying a homebrew on a Wednesday evening is not all that unusual for me, but drinking the beer straight from our first president’s kitchen was a little out of the ordinary.
On May 18th, my father and I traveled down to New York City to attend the limited release of Shmaltz’s newest beer, ‘Fortitude’s Founding Father Brew’. The beer was available to the press during a special release event at Rattle N’ Hum from 6-7 p.m. and the free tastings were avilable to the public at 7 p.m. while supplies lasted.
The porter is based on Washington’s handwritten “small beer” recipe owned by the New York Public Library. In addition to the recipe, the library owns Washington’s Farewell Address and other items belonging to him and his family.
The library is set to host about 900 guests for their centennial gala on May 23 which will commemorate the 100th birthday of the library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. As the library prepared for the celebration, the staff came up with the idea to re-create Washington’s recipe.
While this is the library’s first forray into the beer world, they have an extensive collection of food recipes that can be accessed at http://menus.nypl.org/. Acting Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York Public Libraries Ann Thornton spoke about the library’s collection saying: “This partnership is a fun and unique way to bring our awe-inspiring collections to life. Not only will it give people a rare opportunity to experience history first-hand, but it will shine a spotlight on the incredible depth and breadth of our collections. We have a treasure trove of materials that can be accessed by the public and used to advance the worlds of scholarship, literature, invention, creation . . . or even beer-making.”
The library chose Shmaltz Brewing Company and the brewery turned to two Pete Taylor and Josh Knowlton, two local home brewers to help them out with their special project.
The brewers used their own 15 bbl system to brew the beer. The system was shipped up to the Saratoga Brewing Company in order to fufill Shmaltz’s contract brewing agreement. Working with Shmaltz employee Jennifer Dickey, the team brewed two 15 gallon batches, one with molasses and one without and using the two to create a blended beer as the final product.
Taylor said that the first step was to figure out exactly what ingredients Washington had used in his recipe. The brewers decided to use Brown Malt, Northern Brewer hops and a low percentage of molasses. His goal was a traditional or real ale porter that had a low carbonation. The final beer finished at six percent ABV.
The beer is a mild porter, light on the palate and a smooth mouthfeel. The dark malt really shows through before the hops emerge on the backend.
Washington’s exact recipe read:
“To Make Small Beer,” reads Washington’s recipe. “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 (sic) 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 Yea[s]t 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.”