Drink George Washington’s homebrew in NYC

To celebrate the centennial of its Stephen A. Schwarzman building, the New York Public Library has asked Shmaltz Brewing Company to brew 15 gallons of small beer according to a recipe in its collection that was penned by George Washington. Shmaltz has taken a few liberties with it, probably to make it taste more like today’s brews. If you’re in New York, you can try it May 18 at Rattle N Hum.

If you’d rather brew it yourself, you’re welcome to decipher George’s handwriting above—that’s the biggest photo I could find—or read this transcription. Just watch out: At least one person reports that his attempt to follow the recipe proved “utterly foul.” (When you get to the page, search for molasses.)

James Brownlow had more success following a similar recipe by John Gaylord II written about 60 years after Washington recorded his. This second recipe also requires molasses… and cream of tartar.

James had a number of friends taste-test the brew against MGD—an understandable choice of style because a small beer was a low-alcohol brew intended for everyday drinking, not unlike a lawnmower beer or a session beer—and their overall opinion was that it was equally as good. Not a ringing endorsement in my view. But James’ report is from 2000, and since then Anchor Brewing’s own small beer has come on the market. Perhaps a new taste comparison is in order?

Oh and by the way, from Shmaltz founder Jeremy Cowan: “George Washington is like my old Jewish grandmother.”

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