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“The patriotic thing”

This country was built on the backbone of beer.

Okay, that’s a tremendous exaggeration. It’s essentially a lie. But, hey, I thought I’d provide a sensationalist quote that could be taken out of context. I mean, Ben Franklin never actually said “Beer is proof god loves us and wants us to be happy”: it was instead

Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.

So if he can have one, why can’t I? Seems only fair.

“Never trust the validity of quotes on the internet” – Abraham Lincoln

Still, it would be equally wrong to downplay the importance, or at least presence, of beer in colonial days, and as it’s the day after the 4th of July I thought it might be fun to take a short break from the usual “See you at Bidwell!” posts we’ve had recently and do a little historical digging.

He may not have used it as an argument for his Deism, but that’s not to say Mr. Franklin didn’t like beer. On the contrary! On the occasion of the 300th anniversary of his birth there was even an effort to brew “Poor Richard’s Ale,” which is “a quaff that Franklin himself might have enjoyed.”

Which is to say, it was a complete fabrication, because there are two kinds of historical beers: those that are apocryphal and those that don’t taste very good.

In fact, it’s advisable for readers of this post to adhere to the old Discordian catma of not believing what you read, because much of what you can find online with a quick Google when one suddenly remembers they have a post to write today is unsourced and therefore not to be trusted. I may own a brewery now, but my degrees are in history and library science and so you need to cite your references, dammit. (and so help me if one of you uses Wiki-goddamn-pedia!)

For instance: from an article about the founding fathers’ love of beer,

I’ve seen several old posters dating from the 18th century that called on citizens to do the “patriotic thing” and drink more American beer and cider instead of the popular rum that was exported by the British.

This would be fantastic, and I hope it’s true. I’m not calling the author a liar, but I’d prefer to see a reference or, even better, a link to an image of one of those posters so I could, y’know, put it in this post.

I won’t dispute that George Washington was a brewer, or at least had beer brewed for him. With relatives in DC I’ve been to Mount Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier, etc, and in addition to abeling their bathrooms as “necessaries,” which is a practice we really should bring back, in at least two of those three you can view the areas where beer used to be brewed and stored.

“Oh, boo hoo, Ben. Two words: ‘cherry tree.'”

There’s other proof of the beer-as-patriotism angle, from a letter from Washington:

As a President should, he set the tone for a “Buy American” policy; in a letter from Mount Vernon, on 29 January 1789, he wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette:

“We have already been too long subject to British prejudices. I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America; both these articles may now be purchased of an excellent quality.”

So, okay. I’ll buy it! It’s an idea still worth following today, I’d say. Not that foreign beer is bad: I’d knife members of my own family for a bottle of Westvleteren 12, and being xenophobic in 2012 seems outright silly. But if see someone with a “Buy America” sticker on their truck drinking a Bud, well, that’s a Belgian/Brazilian company. Coors, Miller, Labatt’s… none of them based in the US. The largest American brewery now Yuengling, beating out the Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams.

Samuel Adams, of course, was a brewer by trade for some time. He wasn’t a particularly successful one, but I commend him for entering this noble profession.

The locavore, the historian, the patriot: all people who should take pride in enjoying a good beer. I hope your fourth was sufficiently embeered.

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