Mount Vernon

George Washington and Beer

Happy Washington’s Birthday, everyone! Those of a certain age remember it being an actual federal holiday, and a day on which people lined up outside stores in hopes of buying heavily marked-down TV sets.

Earlier this month, I ran across an article on Mount Vernon’s website about George Washington and beer. Even though he did little brewing himself, he loved beer, especially if it was strong and hoppy. He bought plenty of it to treat voters when he ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and served it to his guests at Mount Vernon. At first, he bought his beer from both local and English brewers, but bad experiences with imported beer during the 1760s contributed to his growing belief that America should become self-sufficient.

Beer played a role in the American Revolution. General Washington needed large quantities of beer because both his officers and soldiers demanded it. In February 1780, when the Continental Army was holed up in winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey, the beer supply ran out and morale plummeted. Fortunately, Washington’s aide-de-camp was able to buy some, and the sated soldiers were once again determined to see the revolution through.

After the war, Washington followed a strict “buy American” policy. His favorite provider was Robert Hare, Jr., of Philadelphia, whose porter he enjoyed. Unfortunately, Hare’s brewery burned down in 1790. That disaster taught Washington a lesson: hedge against future shortages by hoarding large quantities.

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