Author Topic: What the pilgrims drank  (Read 366 times)

Offline Tfwebster

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What the pilgrims drank
« on: September 25, 2021, 06:12:52 pm »
Anyone tried to brew something like what the Pilgrims might have had on board? In looking for what this might have been, I've run across everything from simple ale, to cider, to spruce beer. Would love to hear from anyone who's given it a shot.
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Offline fredthecat

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Re: What the pilgrims drank
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2021, 12:42:12 am »
how to go about this in terms of accuracy would probably go:

1. determine if there was a region from which "the pilgrims" (how many groups of pilgrims departed for the new world at different times?) originated. looking very quickly, it seems like the separatist religious groups they were part of were from nottinghamshire (so nottingham yeast? lol)

2. research brewing in england in the early 1600s (afaik from that time it was really just "malt" with mixes of malted oats, malted wheat, barley etc. i dont know if they bothered roastng them. but ?? . hops were likely used in some beers in england, i think at that time there was still a fair amount of unhoppt beer.

3. research the situation of the pilgrims in america immediately after landing and 5, 10 years after landing. would they have had corn crops going by 5 years in? would they have attempted to use the corn for brewing? did they import barley from britain or did they grow it? could they afford to use these crops for brewing alcohol or was their food situation too tenuous? did they choose to not imbibe alcohol or only take a little bit?

4. did they drink beer at all. apparently for example beer only became popular in ireland relatively recently, so the default alcoholic drink for centuries before was in fact whiskey. i know in early america (but later than pilgrim times) apples were used to make cider and apple brandy, rum was very popular etc.


i think considering the implications of their life and understanding it would be better than making a beer that they would have had. im guessing if the pilgrims drank beer (which i believe they did) it would have been a quite boring and earnest product, likely just some malted barley, perhaps not even kilned, just air-dried. maybe mixed with corn grits, some other grain or a sugar source. hopped? maybe? i have a feeling the gravity would be pretty modest. yeast? probably the same they used for bread making.

Offline Tfwebster

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Re: What the pilgrims drank
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2021, 03:25:55 am »
That's an awesome response, fredthecat! Thanks.
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Offline santoch

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Re: What the pilgrims drank
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2021, 03:24:23 am »
I remember seeing something on the History channel that said that the Mayflower was actually supposed to go to Virginia but they stopped early because they were afraid they'd run out of beer on the voyage back.

Hah!
https://www.straightdope.com/21343748/did-the-pilgrims-land-on-plymouth-rock-because-they-ran-out-of-beer

If they did dry their malt, they probably did it close to a fire, so it was likely smoky.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2021, 03:26:05 am by santoch »
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Online BrewBama

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Re: What the pilgrims drank
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2021, 12:56:41 pm »
I think I recall Townsends doing a cpl episodes featuring brewing. May give you a few pointers.



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Offline fredthecat

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Re: What the pilgrims drank
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2021, 04:53:23 pm »
I remember seeing something on the History channel that said that the Mayflower was actually supposed to go to Virginia but they stopped early because they were afraid they'd run out of beer on the voyage back.

Hah!
https://www.straightdope.com/21343748/did-the-pilgrims-land-on-plymouth-rock-because-they-ran-out-of-beer

If they did dry their malt, they probably did it close to a fire, so it was likely smoky.

that is a good point, i recall reading that in english beers in the 1800s the south of england generally had smokier beers due to using wood/charcoal fires, while the north had very easy access to coal and led the way with smokeless beers. so well before then im sure beers would have been fairly smoky. its also interesting the regions we think of as "beer" regions or "wine" being very different. apparently austria was mostly wine and cider territory until anton dreher. as you guys probably know france had a much more robust local beer drinking history over wine in the past. russia was also beer or other (not so knowledgeable about russia) territory for a long time as well, ive heard various things about certain tzars promoting it or it being promoted post revolution.

Offline Lazy Ant Brewing

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Re: What the pilgrims drank
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2021, 03:44:49 pm »
The early years for the pilgrims were about survival.  Half of them died the first year. They brewed with whatever they could spare to put in the pot.  Corn was often a major portion  of the grist.  Surplus pumpkins were often added.  There were even recipes for brewing chopped green cornstalks (relatively high in sugar content) and available mid-summer into an alcoholic beverage. When apple seedlings began bearing fruit, cider was another major source of alcohol. 

With the exception of a few religious sects, nearly every culture has brewed alcohol. 

Saliva has amylase enzymes that start the process of converting starches into sugars giving rise to beverages that start with chewing corn or processed manioc or other foods and letting wild yeasts do their thing. Any plant that has a high sugar content in stalks or sap such as corn, sugar cane, some palm species can be used as a base.  Call it wine if you will or add grains and call it beer.  Either way, if fermented you end up with an alcoholic beverage.
It's easier to read brewing books and get information from the forum than to sacrifice virgins to appease the brewing gods when bad beer happens!