Colonial Keggers

Watched an episode of The Layover with Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel last night. This time he was visiting Philadelphia and if you are a fan of any of his series, you already know that Chef Bourdain NEVER misses any opportunity to go to a bar wherever he is in the world.

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Now I’m not a beer drinker. I never really have been. Ok, sure there was that one week a few years ago after I saw a documentary on New Belgium Brewing Company and was so impressed with them that I actually bought a six pack of their Fat Tire brew. I though it was my little way of supporting an eco-friendly business with the lofty goal of running completely of wind power. Plus, they gave all their new employees a brand new custom red bicycle on their one year anniversary of work! You know the cute red cruiser seen on their labels. Seriously, how great is that?!

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Ok, off topic. So on this particular episode of The Layover, he wobbles (yes, wobbles because there are always multiple bar hops on his show) on down to a Philadelphia original, The Yards. It’s a brewery started in 1994 by Tom Kehoe and Jon Bovit. It’s my kind of brewery (as my hubby will tell you), just a typical trendy micro brew spot. I’m no dive bar girl but giddy as ever in an old brick building with wall-to-wall dark woods and a menu filled with Cobb salad, wood fired pizzas, and organic beef hamburger options. Sign. Me. Up.

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What was especially unique about The Yards is that Jon and Tom have really taken their love or brewing and the history of Philly to a whole new level. They have a line of beer called Ales of the Revolution, which are crafted from actual recipes of beers during Colonial times. Hearty beers that founding fathers like George Washington and John Adams would’ve chugged down back in the day.

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Apparently, getting together for a good old fashioned colonial kegger would've had an alcohol content close to 14% for our first President. Pretty incredible when you consider that in modern times, it's more like 4 or 5% for a Budweiser.

Here's a few other little bits of trivia for history buffs out there:

– Beer was an important part of the Continental Army’s rations. Spruce beer, ale flavored with spruce, was rationed out in pints and quarts (which is one interpretation of where the expression “Mind your Ps and Qs” came from).

– Beer was brewed either at the local public house or at home. The beer found most commonly in the colonial period was English-style brown ale or a porter.

– The most popular style of beer brewed in the colonial period was the porter. It is a dark beer made from roasted malt, which was both inexpensive to produce and filling.

– The majority of beer in the 1700's was either home-brewed or made at a local public house. You did not see larger breweries in America until later, when transporting the beer became more viable.

– The average colonial ale was much more sustaining and nutritious than today’s light beers.

– Because of the lack of potable water in the 18th century, beer was a safe way to hydrate. It was readily available to men, women, and children and rarely drunk to excess. Toward the end of the 1700s, a temperance movement began to gain popularity. This and the Victorian Era helped shape our unfortunate attitude toward alcohol in this country.

– Beer can be served anywhere from ice cold to room temperature. Traditional German lagers are stored in cold environments and ferment at a lower temperature; therefore, they are best served cold, while traditional English ales are fermented at room temperature and were traditionally served quite warm.

– Commonly served with breakfast porridge. Beer in much of the world was very much like bread on the table up until the late 20th century. It was not very varied, and that was rarely questioned.

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