Yard’s Brewery Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale ****

Yard's Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale - warning may incite revolutionary thoughts.

(8% American make from 12 oz/355 ml bottle) Continuing with the Ales of the Revolution series, Yard’s Brewery offers up another great one.  This ale’s recipe is a fine contribution from none other than Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (ratified at Independence Hall in Philadelphia as shown in my review of Washington’s Porter).  Amongst many other things, he was a man of great thoughts: his political philosophy upheld the separation of church and state, propelled the Virgina Statute for Religious Freedom, and founded the University of Virginia.  JFK spoke this when welcoming 49 Nobel Peace prize winners to the White House, citing:

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

He was a political leader in the Revolutionary War, the country’s first Secretary of State, then its second Vice President, ending up as the third President (leading during the seldom discussed First Barbary War which I had no recollection of ever being taught about). Peace in the newly formed US was short-lived with Britain though, as events unfolded that led to another war with Great Britain, the largely sea based War of 1812.

It was this second war with Britain that aided his development of a brew house on the grounds of his Monticello estate.  In seeking to brew beer as his wife Martha had done for him some 40 years prior, Jefferson applied the knowledge of a friend named Joseph Miller, a Briton who was stranded in America due to their respective nations waging war.  After initially procuring malt from his neighbour, Jefferson began malting his own grain, first using wheat and then corn.  Within a few short years, he had developed a recipe for great ale that was well  respected, so much so that other prominent figures such as James Madison had servants trained in Jefferson’s brew house. Being the polymath he was, this type of applied science he revelled in, and which we can be thankful was recorded.

The recipe to this fine is one which he used at his Monticello estate, and one can only imagine throwing a few of these back with dinner along with the cider he also brewed. It is a copper-colored ale with a slight white head that leaves a dusting around the rim.  The nose was that of sweet molasses, roasted malts, and alcohol.  The taste brings notes of mild roasted malts and dry hops for a well-balanced sweet, but also slightly dry, taste with a mild bubble and creaminess. All in all, a winner.

When speaking of mankind, Jefferson famously penned in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal.   However, as Yard’s has proven, not all ales are created equal. This is one which stands out to testify to this fact.

All ales are definitely not created equal! Mankind fine, but ales never!

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One response to “Yard’s Brewery Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale ****

  1. Hello there –

    In response to your query, the source used the term servent when referring to who Jefferson’s neighbors sent for training, but was ambiguous with regards to who Madison sent:

    ‘As word spread of the brewing operations at Monticello, Jefferson’s neighbors began requesting his ale recipe, or asking to have their servants trained in beer making at Monticello. Jefferson offered James Madison the opportunity to send someone to attend the fall brewing of 1820, and then return in the spring of 1821, “in order to perfect himself.’

    In the context of Virgina 1820, ‘servent’ could most certainly mean slave. Madison was known to have kept slaves, and one could assume he had sent a slave to be trained. However, the text does not specify. Jefferson had Peter Hemings trained to master the brewing process, himself a slave on Jefferson’s plantation. Interestingly, Peter was the brother to Jefferson’s mistress, Sally. He was also the half sister of Jefferson’s deceased wife (through their father John Wayles). According to DNA evidence, after the death of his wife, Jefferson fathered 6 children with Sally, 4 of which grew to adulthood. Peter Hemings went on be freed after Jefferson’s death upon his purchase by a relative.

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