Richard" was a nickname or pen name that Benjamin Franklin gave to
himself when he wrote his almanac, entitled "Poor Richard's
Almanac". Franklin says in his writitngs that he had ale for
breakfast as a child.
He did not give the recipe for that ale, no doubt because at the time
he wrote it, everybody knew how ale was made and he didn't see the
recipes for Poor Richard's Ale, then, are based on the
information about the colonial period that we have today, our knowledge
of ale brewing and whatever prejudices the author of the modern version
of Poor Richard's Ale may bring with them when writing the recipe.
most reconstructors, I assume that molasses was
molasses was common and cheap in the colonies. However, I feel that
modern molasses, which is made in a highly industrialized process,
can no longer be a good substitute for the molasses of Franklin's day,
which would have been, among other things, a lot higher in sugar and
much sweeter. For this reason, I substitute sorghum syrup. Like
molasses, sorghum syrup is made from a cane that is high in sugar, but,
unlike today's molasses, sorghum syrup is still made in a low-tech way
that would have been used in Franklin's day and does not extract all
the sugar from it. You could also substitute treacle, which is a sweet
I also make an
assumption that early American brewing would be informed both by
traditions brought over from Europe and well as what the colonists
learned from their Indian neighbors. There is no information that I can
find about brewing alcohol among the Indians of North America, and, in
fact, there are some authorities that believe they did not brew beer
because of this. I find this highly unlikely as all peoples everywhere
had brewed alcohol, and suspect that the issue of Indians and
became a sensitive one especially when the Christian missionaries
arrived, so the Indians kept quiet about their beverages, which also
have had sacred meanings for them. Therefore, I look to the
the corn beer called "chica" among the Latin and South American natives
that is widely documented to get an idea of how the American Indians
would have brewed their ales. Indians did not use yeast in fermentation
and relied on natural yeast instead for their ferments. I put yeast in
this recipe for modern tastes, but you can go to Harvesting
to find ways to get natural wild yeast if you prefer that for
Ale made for children, called "small beer", was
usually only brewed for a day and had very little alcohol. It was
equivalent to our modern soda pop, although it would have had much more
nutritional elements in it and not have added chemicals or
"He that drinks his Cyder alone,
let him catch his horse alone."
tablespoon of cornmeal (polenta or maize meal)
a pinch of ground
1 tablespoon of molasses, treacle or sorghum
• 1 quart of water
• 1/2 teaspoon of
yeast or 1/4 cup of yeast starter
cornmeal, spice and syrup with water. Put in a saucepan and
to a boil, stirring occasionally. (Not exactly period authentic but you
could also puree it with a stick blender.)
When the liquid has cooled down to
lukewarm or tepid, add the yeast stir it in and cover with
an airlock and set in a room temperature or warm place.
has begun to ferment, let it ferment for 3-7 days, depending on how
alcoholic you want it to be, before serving to adults. If you were
making it for a small child, you
would probably want to just mix up the ingredients and eliminate the
yeast. For an older child, you may want to let it ferment long enough
to be "fizzy", in which case you could bottle it and let it ferment in
the bottle for a day or two.
you cook cornmeal first to make your ale, or use it raw, if you don't
filter it before brewing, you will have a sediment at the bottom. In
Africa, they make a beer from cornmeal called Chibuku, or "Shake
shake", as it is affectionately called. The label on the box urges the
customer to shake the carton first before drinking it, presumably to
get what nutrition there is in the corn along with their beer. You can
either do the same, or pour your beer off the sediment into a glass if
you prefer. The fermented cornmeal could be added to any
bread or cornbread if you like.
alcohol to learn how to adjust the strength of
ale has fermented long enough based on how much alcohol or how
sweet you want it to be, transfer it to plastic soda pop bottles to
carbonate. If you choose to ferment in glass, be aware
runs the risk of having an explosion of glass shards. Use safety
bottles and pack them in a crate filled with sand to minimize any risk.
As you pour the liquid into the bottles, add a little sugar or sugar
syrup if fermentation seems to have slowed down.
cap(s) on securely.
it's ready, reserve 1/4 cup to use as a yeast
starter for your next brew.
is ready when bottle is firm to the touch and cannot be squeezed.
bottle can still be squeezed and is not yet ready to drink yet.