Beer, Wine & Spirits

Long Island brewer harks back to George Washington for beer inspiration

Colonial Ale
Source: Blue Point Brewing Company

Hofstra University, located in Hempstead on New York's Long Island, will find itself the center of the political universe on Monday night as the host of the first presidential debate of 2016.

To celebrate one of the most anticipated presidential debates in recent memory, Long Island based beer maker Blue Point Brewing Company has turned to another moment of local history for inspiration. The company has created Colonial Ale, inspired by George Washington, who was both a beer lover and home brewer.

Colonial Ale will join Blue Point's flagship Toasted Lager and a other Blue Point products in being served in the hospitality room of the debate center at Hofstra, which is sponsored by its parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

In 1790, after being elected the nation's first president a year earlier, Washington took a tour of Long Island, visiting Hart's Tavern—believed to have been located about five blocks from Blue Point's brewery in Patchogue. A plaque commemorating Washington's visit now marks the spot where Hart's Tavern is believed to have stood.

"We researched his life and found out his favorite beer was porter," said Dan Jansen, Blue Point Brewery Head Brewer. "He (also) had hand written his own beer recipe back in 1757, it's on record at the New York Public Library."

Beer with molasses?

The recipe, written in one of Washington's military journals, is for what was known at the time as a "small" beer, meaning a low alcohol brew, similar to what might be called a session beer today.

Jansen took that information, along with research on what type of ingredients would have been readily available in the 1700s, and used it as the main points of inspiration in creating Colonial Ale.

"At the time trading with the British was highly sensitive because of the unrest that was happening," Jansen explained to CNBC. "A lot of the time good malts and good hops were hard to come by, and if you could come by them you had to pay pretty high tariffs."

So Washington, like other brewers of his time, learned to supplement their recipes with what they could easily get their hands on.

"When you get into his recipe there is some mention of molasses and you immediately think blackstrap molasses but the more you research it, it's more like golden English syrup," said Jansen. "It would have been available as a byproduct of the rum trade, so it's not like molasses as we would think of [it] today."

So when it came time to brew Colonial Ale, Jansen and his team used a light golden molasses, malt from upstate New York and spruce tips, which were often used to supplement hops in colonial times.

Source: Blue Point Brewing Company

The result is what Jansen called a session American brown ale, with an alcohol-by-volume of three-point-six percent.

"It's got some caramel and toffee notes that come through from the golden molasses syrup, and on the end there's a more citrusy and touch of pine character from the spruce tips" he explained.

"So two of the odder ingredients we chose to work with turned out to balance well and make a great beer," Jansen added.

The brewery is still finalizing plans for a larger release, with a tap room release pegged to Election Day under consideration.

No matter what he might have thought of today's political climate, Jansen is confident Washington would have approved of Colonial Ale.

"This is a beer that's kind of a mix of a porter, the small beer recipe that he had penned and a traditional English style brown ale" he said. "We love the way it come out and think it did justice in paying tribute to our first president, who also loved beer and was a brewer himself."