Poor Richard's Ale

"Poor 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 need.

Any 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.

Like most reconstructors, I assume that molasses was used, as 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 molasses.

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 alcohol became a sensitive one especially when the Christian missionaries arrived, so the Indians kept quiet about their beverages, which also may have had sacred meanings for them. Therefore, I look to the brewing of 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 Wild Yeast to find ways to get natural wild yeast if you prefer that for authenticity.

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 artifically forced carbonation.

"He that drinks his Cyder alone, let him catch his horse alone."

--Benjamin Franklin

• 1 tablespoon of cornmeal (polenta or maize meal)
a pinch of ground mixed spice
1 tablespoon of molasses, treacle or sorghum syrup
1 quart of water
1/2 teaspoon of yeast or 1/4 cup of yeast starter
Mix cornmeal, spice and syrup with water. Put in a saucepan and bring 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.
After it 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.

Whether 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 yeast bread or cornbread if you like.

 (See adjusting alcohol to learn how to adjust the strength of alcohol by fermentation time.)

 Bottling Instructions

When 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 that carbonating in glass 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.

https://sites.google.com/site/windintheroses/ale_captight.jpgScrew cap(s) on securely.

Ale is ready when bottle is firm to the touch and cannot be squeezed.
This bottle is not ready.This bottle can still be squeezed and is not yet ready to drink yet.

After it's ready, reserve 1/4 cup to use as a yeast starter for your next brew.  https://sites.google.com/site/lowmoonglowing/quarter_cup_starter.jpg


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