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.”