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March 2, 2010

Discover why beer was the toast of the 18th-century capital of Virginia

Explore the 18th-century tradition of beer making during Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways program, “The Art and Mysteries of Brewing.”

Guests can see the process of brewing beer as it was practiced in the 18th century at the Governor’s Palace Scullery from 10 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, March 21, Saturday, April 17, Sunday, May 2, Saturday, May 29, Sunday, Sept. 12, Saturday, Oct. 9, Sunday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Nov. 20.

The everyday beer for many people in 18th-century colonial Williamsburg was known as “small beer.” This small beer was made by boiling molasses, hops and wheat bran, straining out the mixture, and later adding yeast for the fermenting process. Many colonial brewers substituted molasses, corn stalks or pumpkins for the more expensive malted barley traditionally used to make beer.

The 18th-century beer often contained high levels of hops, closely relating the colonial brew to today’s bitter flavored India pale ales. If hops were not available or too expensive, they would use spruce or pine tips instead. A porter beer, described as a dark, strong ale, was another very popular beverage in the 18th century. Porters contain a mixture of burnt molasses and sugar to ensure their dark color, along with licorice root added for its distinct flavor.

A Colonial Williamsburg admission pass gains entry to these programs.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program. Explore The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover rare treasures and storied objects throughout the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum featuring the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670 – 1830 and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects made in America during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Colonial Williamsburg Hotels feature conference spaces and recreation activities from spa and fine dining to world-class golf. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121