We’ve never thought about our founding fathers’ hooch of choice, until an invite from the Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams, landed in our box. In honor of the new Samuel Adams Brewer Patriot Collection—four beers allegedly inspired by our founding fathers—the company was hosting an evening of “colonial-inspired” food to drink with the beers at fancy-schmancy West Village restaurant One if by Land, Two if by Sea.
“Colonial-inspired” in this case meant everything from bacon-wrapped scallops to berry soup, but we were expecting something a little more rugged. Wasn’t there supposed to be some moose head to chomp on? Fresh roasted deer from the Appalachian backwoods? And for that matter, why wasn’t Boston Beer honcho Jim Koch in knickers and a goofy hat? The brewing world’s beloved beer gnome—Papa Beer, we like to call him—delivered a speech wearing the classic Bill “loaded, who me?” Gates get-up of a chambray button down and khakis.
The affair might not have been very authentic, but the beer was. Koch described how several of our founding fathers—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Sam Adams—were dedicated home brewers. Thomas Jefferson had a brewery at Monticello; James Madison learned about brewing from Jefferson and at one time considered starting a “national brewery” in D.C.; George Washington believed in buying only American-made brew. Released in time for July 4th, the new Brewer Patriot Collection honors each of them with his own beer. “As brewers,” says Koch, “they were very improvisational. They couldn’t go to Whole Foods—they made beer from what they had.” Washington used blackstrap molasses in his beer because of its availability. The George Washington Porter (porter was apparently Washington’s favorite type of beer) had a deep, chocolate-y brown color and a rich, molasses flavor. By far the easiest sipping beer, the James Madison Dark Wheat Ale, includes malt barley hand-smoked with oak from land Madison himself once owned. Apparently Thomas Jefferson and his wife regularly brewed gallons of ginger beer with honey and lemons to drink daily; in Jefferson’s honor, the Traditional Ginger Honey Ale is a pleasant summertime refresher fashioned after old ginger-brew recipes from the 1700s. Reminding the rest of us that root beer was a beer first, the 1790 Root Beer Brew is made from ingredients that Sam Adams would have been used back in the day: blackstrap molasses, sassafras root bark, dried wintergreen, and licorice. Because of its thick sweetness—a small shot glass of this would be fine, a whole pint, a challenge—we thought of this more as a novelty beer than an everyday drink. “They weren’t brewed to be palate pleasing,” Koch says of his beers, “they were brewed to be authentic.”