Poor Richard’s Ale

Poor Richard’s Ale—this is the one I mentioned the other day that I’d blog about. It’s not a beer being served up by any one brewery—and actually, the idea behind this is, I think, pretty neat. January 17th is the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth, and to commemorate the event, Tony Simmons of Brick Oven Brewing (ostensibly now Pagosa Spring Brewing) has developed a recipe that he believes approximates the favorite type of colonial beer that Ben Franklin drank.

You can check out his notes and recipe (for five gallons, all-grain—homebrew friendly) here (PDF)—they seem well researched and formulated:

MASHING – Eighteenth century texts say to, “Bring your water to a boil and put it into the mash tun. When it has cooled enough that the steam has cleared and you can see your reflection in the water, add your malt to the tun." In my experiments, this translated to a mash temperature of approximately 154F. This mash temperature is supported by both Noonan’s recipe for an 1850 Scottish ale and Daniels’ recommendation for an Old Ale.

HOPS – I suggest Kent Goldings as they were “discovered” in the 18th century and proved extremely popular for brewers both in England and abroad. By comparison, Fuggle hops were not bred until the 19th century. And, regionally grown hops from the Americas had very inconsistent harvests and also did not become widely available until the 19th Century.

(Since this is an all-grain recipe, and I am to date still an extract homebrewer, perhaps I’ll formulate an extract recipe based on this. I’ll post it here, of course.)

The cool part is, breweries around the country are brewing this recipe this month to commemorate the anniversary. (The main page I linked to has a state-by-state locator of breweries that are doing this.) So, you can likely find this beer wherever you might be—assuming you’re close to a microbrewery, that is :).

The other cool part is from a geeky homebrewer point of view: since every brewery is brewing this ale from the same recipe, it’s a fantastic way to gauge the relative qualities and skills of each brewer based on this beer. And, it’s fun to see how each brewer interprets and tweaks the recipe for their respective systems.

Here in Bend, both the Deschutes Brewery and Bend Brewing Company are brewing up Poor Richard’s. They’re set to be released the 21st and 15th, respectively. Awesome! I can’t wait to try each one. I’ll take extensive notes and blog about them. It’s like an assignment! :)


  1. I had a Poor Richard’s Ale at the Main Street Ale House in Gresham. Very good stuff! I need to get around to some more local brewpubs and see how they stack up.

  2. I had the Laurelwood (Hollywood, Portland) version a couple of weeks back, and it was really good; they took the 18th Century style to heart and blended a newly fermented beer with a "stale" aged beer, like that St Peters Porter. I wish they would make it all the time.

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