1. Early farmhouse brewers made their own beer and bragot using closely guarded family recipes.
2. In early America and Europe, alcohol was made from whatever was available. Beer, wine and mead were often blended to create a “grog.”
3. Fruit, honey and molasses were historically used to provide fermentable sugars because barley and other grains were rarely available.
4. Spruce was often used by early brewers for bittering and preservation (a Scandinavian brewing tradition) rather than hops, as were ground ivy and sassafras or ginger root.
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5. German settlers are rumored to have brought the first bees to America, a highly aggressive breed of “dark bees.”
6. Swedish settlers brought more skeps (straw bee hives) with them to America than any other nationality.
7. European settlers brought with them a tradition of making “small beer.” For each brewing session, they would create as many as 3 to 4 batches of wort, each with decreasing alcohol levels.
8. In Europe, yeast strains were passed along as family heirlooms via yeast logs or yeast-caked fermentation vessels, which were then brought to America.
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9. The temperance movement was a reaction in large part to advancements in brewing science that enabled brews higher in alcohol.
10. During the Revolutionary War, Congress mandated that each soldier be rationed one quart of spruce beer or cider per day.
This article was originally published in the NEW PIONEER ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.