A Brief History with Beer

April is beer history month.  You’ve probably never heard that because it’s not actually a thing.  UNTIL NOW.  We’ve made it beer history month for a few reasons:

  1. No one claimed April.
  2. We love beer. Duh.
  3. Nick wanted to prove his degree in History wasn’t completely useless. (see, Dad?)

We want to start things off with a little bit about people in beer history. For example, did you know that John Adams loved beer?  All alcohol, actually.  So much so he tried to use his diplomatic immunity with France to try and smuggle in 500 bottles of French Bordeaux duty free.  When that didn’t work, he just made his friend Thomas Jefferson and his connections do it for him.  Those founding fathers hated taxes.

But John Adams wasn’t the only one; far from it.  Check out our five picks for people in history who loved beer!

  1. Benjamin Franklin. Founding father, professional partier, often misquoted.

Appears both on the $100 bill and upset.

“Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Actually, the quote goes, “…wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves us to be happy.”  Perhaps one of the more misquoted men in history about beer.  That said, we don’t think Ben would really be upset with the change in vocab; the guy liked to have a good time.  We get the gist of what you’re saying, Ben: you like to imbibe and FRANKly (get it?), we don’t blame you.  Benjamin Franklin was known to party, known for his relations with loose women and also, you know, helped start America or whatever.  He was never one to shy away from having a good time, especially if spirits were involved. Some people call him America’s Winston Churchill – a man always quick with a retort, often at the opposing party’s expense.

He enjoyed imbibing spirits so much, he published The Drinker’s Dictionary.  A list of 228 “Round about ways” to describe drunkenness.  Seriously.

Our three favorites are: Sir Richard has taken off his Considering Cap, Nimptopsical, and As Dizzy as a Goose.

Call us crazy, but something tells us personal experience might have played into coming up with some of those names.

  1. Peter the Great. He’s pretty great. Also, Czar of Russia.

    A completely undoctored painting of Peter the great balancing his favorite beer with his favorite sword.

“Destiny may ride with us today, but there is no reason for it to interfere with lunch.”

Peter the Great was pretty great, but don’t take our word for it, just read the guy’s business card.  Like a proper royal, he was a fan of food and alcohol.  His beer of choice was Stout; an ale he first fell in love with when visiting England in the late 17th century.  He requested some be shipped to Russia for him to enjoy in his imperial courts, but when the beer got there it had spoiled.  The Barclay Brewery in London came up with an idea to increase the shelf life of the beer: increase the alcohol content and hops used in the beer.  Making it one of the first high abv. stouts to date.   Since the beer was enjoyed in Peter’s imperial court, it became known as the Imperial Stout.  The name is regal, so really it makes sense that it stuck.

150 years later, Catherine the Great (also a great person) would enjoy the same beer.  So much, in fact, she’d get special Imperial Stout imported much like Peter before; the beers supplied were brewed to last “as long as seven years.”  But somehow we doubt they made it that long; they just taste so darn good.  Those Russians know how to drink.

  1. Dionysus, God of Wine and Beer.

    “Who the eff put wine in my beer goblet?!” -Dionysus. Probably.

“I love booze.” – Dionysus. Probably.

What else can we say about this dude?  The guy was the Greek God intoxication, does he really need more of an explanation?  He was into being happy and partying, and even showed up in politics a few times.  So, in a way, he was a lot like Benjamin Franklin.

  1. Ernest Hemingway Professional Drinker with a Writing Problem

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk.  That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

This one might be cheating.  Saying a writer enjoyed alcohol is kind of like suggesting Bob Marley enjoyed Cannabis.  They really go hand in hand.  What do you get when you combine a drunk with the ability to write?  A lot of great quotes about beer.  Seriously, the guy has dozens of them.

Like: “I drink to make other people interesting.” And “An intelligent man is often times forced to be drunk to spend time with fools.”

He liked to insult people, that’s for sure.

Ernest Hemingway was a man who enjoyed all spirits, beer included.  His drinks of choice usually centered around cocktails—extra dry martinis especially—but the Ballantine Ale was his favorite.  At least, according to an ad he appeared in where he talks about the best thing to do after catching a big marlin (something we can all relate to):

“…You are tired all the way through. The fish is landed untouched by sharks and you have a bottle of Ballantine cold in your hand and drink it cool, light, and full-bodied, so it tastes good long after you have swallowed it. That’s the test of an ale with me: whether it tastes as good afterwards as when it’s going down. Ballantine does.”

OK, the money he got (and rumored free beer for life) might have had more influence than the actual flavor, but we appreciate him gentrifying the beer culture.  Arguably one of America’s founding fathers of writing, it’s no wonder he’s made this list.  His works include For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea.

  1. George Washington Beer lover and all around nice guy.  Oh, and the first president of the United States of America.

“I use no Porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America.”

Shop local, folks.

Washington’s Distillery.

There’s been debate about how our first president felt about alcohol in general.  Certainly in all of his speeches (especially to his troops), he speaks ill of imbibing spirits:

“An aching head and trembling limbs which are the inevitable effects of drinking, disincline the hands from work; hence begins sloth and that listlessness which ends in idleness.”

But actions speak louder than words (he did admit to chopping down that cherry tree, after all).  Washington was the first president of the United States to start a distillery.  And it was no small time operation, either.  By 1799, Washington’s distillery barreled 11,000 gallons alone.  And during his presidency he spent an estimated 7% of his income on alcohol.

And what about beer?   He loved beer so much he became a regular customer with brewer Robert Hare and had dozens of cases of Porter sent to his offices during his presidency.  He even had that Porter sent ahead of him when taking a small vacation to his estate in Virginia.  In multiple letters, he described the beer as the “best Porter in Philadelphia.”

But his beer love didn’t stop there.  Our first president was a brewer. In his journal, he wrote down a recipe for small beer; an alcoholic beverage that didn’t exceed .75% that was meant for everyone.  Including the children.  Yes, children.  The 18th century was a different time.

The best part about Washington?  During a farewell party his troops threw for him before the signing of the constitution, he and his men accrued a tab over $15,000.  Which included 54 bottles of wine, 36 bottles of beer (including his favorite: Porter), and seven “Large bowls of spiked punch.” The guy knew how to throw a sendoff, that’s for sure.

 

Who knew history was so rich with beer?  The beverage has been a centerpiece for enjoyment in humanity for a very long time.  Some potteries indicate its consumption from as far back as 3,500 BC.  It’s no wonder there’s been some important people that have enjoyed a good ale every now and then.  And who knows, maybe one of you will be the next person in history who loved beer.

If you are, just make sure to use Common Block Brewing by name, so the future beer lovers of the world know where the good stuff was.