George Washington Small Beer Recipe + Review

This half-gallon experimental batch was brewed back when all I had was home malted barley and no hope for actual malt, so I was looking for the most barebones ways I could brew something that could pass as beer. That led me straight to an exploration of the various incarnations of George Washington’s Small Beer recipe brewed primarily with molasses. You can’t get molasses here in Santa Cruz, but cane syrup is readily and easily available, so I bought a kilo of it at Los Pozos market for 15 Bolivianos.

I tracked down (and subsequently lost) the basic recipe on someone’s site that had decided to actually go through and brew it, and adapted it just a tad to make it work for me. Here’s the original recipe:

Batch Size (Gal): 0.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 0.0
Anticipated OG: 1.040
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

5.8 oz cane syrup

4 g Palisades 7.8% @ 60 min
zest of 1 lemon @ 60 min
1/4 tsp shredded fresh ginger @ 15 min
4 cloves @ 15 min
1 tsp lemon juice @ 15 min

Cooper’s Ale Yeast (2nd generation)

-OG: 1.032
-Brewed on March 31, 2012. Made with the final runnings of a horrible attempt at a Dubbel. There was nothing fermentable from that mash, only some color.
-April 12, 2012: bottled, FG at 1.004

Tasting: May 30, 2012

Appearance: Cloudy, caramel brown, with a tan head that sticks around forever. Kind of surprising given that there was zero grain of any kind.

Aroma: Fruity and beery in general, though no hint of malt. Hard to nail down a fruit either.

Taste: Tart, funny aftertaste that brings to mind what nasty fishwater probably tastes like. Sour up front, but ends dry and salty. No hop taste (although it did do some bittering), although if I tried this again, it’s the first place I’d turn to redeem something from this.

Drinkability: To be honest, it reminds of when I was learning to appreciate beer and had to struggle to finish an entire pint. So, not worth it by itself, but you could use it for cooking. Too embarrassing to give away.

Notes/Conclusions: No malt means this is just weird, and not in the way that turns a light bulb on in anyone’s head. Granted, it’s probably about as good as George WA was drinking back when life was busy, but that’s more a testament to quality control than tastes. I’m not sure what it would take for me to do this again (probably being some place where I can’t find malt at all), but I’d definitely do more to add body and flavor. Flavoring and aroma hops would be a must, or a more diverse spice bill if hops aren’t around. Maybe some oats in the boil or something to try and add body.

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