George Washington's personal beer recipe surfaces

George Washington beer recipe

As every real American can tell you, the most important quality in a President is their desirability as a drinking buddy. As such, George Washington's historic cool points just skyrocketed with the New York Public Library's release of his personal recipe for brewing your own beer.

A modified version of the recipe — to be clunkily known as Fortitude's Founding Father Brew — will be served at the Library's Centennial gala later this month and brewed in partnership with the Coney Island Brewing Company, but you can check out the original version below, transcribed from Washington's handwritten notes. It may or may not contain the word "bung." Anyway, here it is:

"To Make Small Beer

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."

Technical question: was "Blood warm" a common term for assessing temperature back in the day, or was George Washington just a lot more macabre than I thought he was?

Commentarium (41 Comments)

May 05 11 - 3:34pm

I once baked Ronald Reagan's favorite macaroni and cheese.

May 09 11 - 7:47pm

I did too Peter. It was printed in the LA Times several years ago. What did you think of it?

May 05 11 - 3:34pm

Technically it was Nancy's recipe.

May 05 11 - 4:14pm

Modern day readers should note that the term "small beer" doesn't refer to quantity, but to alcoholic strength, "small" beer being fairly weak in that regard - the sort you use to quench your thirst rather than get smashed.

May 05 11 - 4:20pm

I'm in because I can cut down cherry trees

May 05 11 - 5:06pm

Blood-warm would be body temperature - still a common means of judging temperature when cooking. For instance, my mother taught me judge whether water was warm enough to grow yeast for bread (or pizza dough) by holding a finger in the water for a count of ten. The water was the right temperature if it felt hot to the touch, but did not burn or cause discomfort.

May 05 11 - 5:07pm

Also, a bung is an older term for a round (generally metal) container.

May 05 11 - 5:24pm
re: EAK

The bung is not a round, metal container. The bung is the stopper for the bunghole in a cask. His container is the cask. Bung isn't just an older term, as it's still used when brewing or distilling.

May 09 11 - 9:15pm
Matthew B

Also, in paint and construction. Paint buckets have bungholes and bungs, as opposed to... holes and stoppers? I dunno what you'd call 'em if you didn't call 'em bungholes.

May 05 11 - 5:33pm

30 gallons is a shit load of beer - like 6 kegs worth.

May 05 11 - 6:35pm

Depends on the size of your keg.

May 09 11 - 10:02am

It's actully 2 American 1/2 barrels worth

May 09 11 - 2:47am

yes the reference to bung - while meant to be tongue in cheek I'm sure, just came off as crude and uneducated. Bung is the term for the stopper and/or hole (or bunghole) it is used with. Attempt at humour = fail.

May 09 11 - 11:29am

Bah. There's a place for crude humor. I know full well what a bung is, in this regard, and I still get a little titter out of it.

May 09 11 - 2:47am

"Blood warm" was a commonly-used term. It's about body temperature, of course. This is a typical recipe of the period for "molasses beer"--it's not to the taste of modern beer drinkers. Fortunately, lots of people preferred to use malted barley. Those old recipes come out much more palatable.

May 09 11 - 2:54am

"Blood warm" just means lukewarm.

May 09 11 - 6:51am
Carl Brutananadilews

The kegs that most Americans are used to seeing are 15.5 gallons or half of a barrel.

May 09 11 - 11:16am
brewman chu

The kegs homebrewers are used to seeing are five gallons. Hence 6 kegs for 30 gallons.

May 09 11 - 7:16am


May 11 11 - 5:11pm


May 11 11 - 5:13pm

Falco, you are an a-hole! And Oldman Hoppy can SUCK IT!

May 09 11 - 7:50am

Enemy Barrel Roll Analyzed!

May 31 11 - 11:25am


May 09 11 - 8:11am

Anybody have Obama's recipe for Purple Drank?

May 09 11 - 9:00am

Too funny. Will have sinus problems all day from breakfast up nose.

May 09 11 - 10:30am

I don't get it? Why is that funny?

May 09 11 - 6:18pm

It's only funny if your a racist cracker.

May 09 11 - 7:04pm

CRACKER?!?! Wow, I really hate being reminded of the the days of owning land and people....FYI Cracker is short for "Whip Cracker"

May 09 11 - 10:00pm

Anyone have a recipe for crackers? Mmmm crackers and beer.

May 12 11 - 10:13am

"Cracker" as a term for Southern white trash has nothing to do with owning land or slaves. It comes from those destitute bastards' awful diets-- remember, the Georgia colony was founded to be an alternative to debtors' prison: the "worthy poor," meaning the Englishfolk who were too dumb to stay out of crippling debt but also too gormless to commit profitable crimes, were basically supposed to be sent to Georgia in exile as though it were prison. Even though no inmates wound up being sent there, some of the founding principles remained, and the colonists' diets were pretty appallingly bad (funnily enough, though, they did eat lobster, which at the time was seen as filth unworthy of consumption, to the extent that prisons used to have rules limiting how often their inmates could be forced to eat it without being cruel).

"Cracker" more likely comes from the staple of their diets, cracked corn (aka cornmeal). Later on, in the 19th century, it became a term of self-identification referring to how Georgian ranchers drove their cattle adeptly with, yes, whips. But the word "cracker" already existed as a pejorative. When it was coined around or before the Revolutionary War (as a divergent word from its earlier usage in Shakespeare), the term referred to piss-poor, dumb, proud-to-be-ignorant white folk, much as it still does. But by all means, take pride in that identity, avery. Keep f*(&ing that chicken.

May 09 11 - 8:31am


May 09 11 - 9:10am

Yeah, Tyrone just shut it down.

May 09 11 - 10:50am

Someone get Dogfish Head on this one stat!

May 09 11 - 7:28pm

No need, this is easy enough to do at home. All you need is a 3-5 gallon pot, a fermentation bucket, and some bottles. You can find basic starter kits for brewing for around $80 online that will have more than you need for this recipe.

May 09 11 - 12:39pm

This beer was made (just once) in the late 1980's by Manhattan Brewing Company (a now extinct brewpub in NYC.) The beer was undrinkable to a modern palate, but interesting, none the less.

May 10 11 - 9:14am
Fred V.

Modern Palate being Budweiser and Coors Light? Bleh.

May 09 11 - 3:10pm

Actually, to answer the question about "blood warm"...the related term "rule of thumb" also comes from brewing because if the hot wort has cooled to a point where it matches body temperature, it's cool enough for the yeast to survive and it's time to add the yeast.
Natures first thermometer.

May 10 11 - 12:27am

Also explains yeast infections. Well done.

May 09 11 - 6:02pm

Robert Hare, first man to brew Porter beer in US...with the Hare family recipe.

May 10 11 - 11:34am
El Ronbo

Goes great with wooden teeth!

Jun 01 11 - 7:51am

I knew I liked that man...