George was a Porter lover…

Today is George Washington’s Birthday. Happy Birthday George! Many of you know that Washington brewed his own beer and had a fondness for the Porters. I happen to love Porters too, so I thought it was fitting to post a small entry about the origins of our first president’s brew of choice.

One of the more popular versions of the origins of Porter suggests that because this beer was a favorite among laborers and porters it was thusly called “porter’s ale or porter”.

It has also been suggested that Porter was first brewed as a way to replace a trend at that time (early 1700s) of mixing, for economical reasons and for taste, several different kinds of beers, e.g., one popular mixture was called ‘three threads’ which was probably pale ale, new brown ale, and stale ale mixed together (Corran 1975:110).

In “A History of Brewing” Corran writes that the earliest written reference to Porter is found in the letters of M. Cesar de Saussure to his family:

26 November 1726.  Would you believe it, although water is to be had in abundance in London and of fairly good quality, absolutely none is drunk? The lower classes, even the paupers, do not know what it is to quench their thirst with water. In this country nothing but beer is drunk and it is made in several qualities. Small beer is what everyone drinks when thirsty; it is used even in the best houses and costs only a penny a pot. Another kind of beer is called porter…because the greater quantity of this beer is consumed by the working classes. It is a thick and strong beverage, and the effect it produces if drunk in excess, is the same as that of wine…In London there are a number of houses where nothing but this sort of beer is sold…It is said that more grain is consumed in England for making beer than making bread. (1975:111)

I really enjoy reading historical sources about beer and i thought this was particularly apropos. So tip a Porter or two in honor of George’s birthday — the man did have good taste — and as way to salute craft beer’s early history!

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