Update: The event is now sold out.
Previous: Care to sample a spruce beer similar to what might have been brewed at Monticello? Want to sip a cider popular in Colonial times?
The BrewHaHa craft beer festival Aug. 5 at the Virginia Historical Society will give you that chance.
As a follow-up to its History on Tap series, which provided recipes from its archives to local fermenters, the VHS has opened its archives to local craft brewers to inspire them to create a taste of history.
Jamie O. Bosket, president and CEO of the VHS, hopes the event will connect with craft beer fans as well as lovers of Virginia history.
“Learning about the ingredients and the brewing process, and how the brewers adapted these centuries-old recipes into something we can enjoy today, truly sparks the imagination and makes history present,” Bosket said. “All of the brews inspired by recipes found in the Virginia Historical Society collections are part-beverage, part-time machine.”
Danny Fain, brewer at Ardent Craft Ales in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition, decided to brew Spruce Beer, inspired by a recipe in the third edition of Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, published by Catharine Esther Beecher in 1858. Fain, who sourced the spruce locally, said it’s an unusual ingredient that Ardent had never worked with before.
“The spruce tips we used in the boil were fresh-cut from a Norwegian spruce from Sneed’s Nursery in Bon Air,” he said.
Fain chose Norwegian spruce because it is more representative of the types of spruce trees found in this part of America 200 years ago.
“I loosely based the recipe on ones that would have been brewed by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. After doing exhaustive research, I decided that using fresh-cut spruce tips in the boil, as opposed to a spruce extract, would give the beer a better flavor and a truer representation of how this beer would have been brewed historically,” he said. “I added a small amount of hops only to balance out the malty sweetness and to let the spruce shine through.”
Trapezium Brewing Co. in Petersburg brewed a Superior Ginger Beer, “an old British recipe that brewmaster James Frazer researched from the late 1800s,” said Trapezium’s sales director Kirk Candler. “It’s our take, using English yeast, bittered with heather flowers, with three ginger root additions, brown sugar and lime zest.”
“Ginger is the star in this beer,” Frazer said. It’s “balanced with the heather, and the lime zest brings it all together. It’s light-bodied and effervescent.”
Center of the Universe Brewing Co. in Ashland and Virginia Beer Co. in Williamsburg collaborated on a beer aimed at beating the heat, a Persimmon Wheat Ale. The recipe “is a little bit of old and new,” said Chris Ray, an owner of COTU.
“Persimmon and lemon were often used in brewing back in Colonial times,” Ray said, “so we took these two ingredients and included some malted two-row barley and wheat, commonly used back then.”
The beer is about 4.5 percent ABV and has “a nice, soft mouthfeel and gentle fruitiness to it,” Ray said.
“Given that it is a million degrees these days,” Ray said, “we decided to go in the direction of the persimmon and lemon, for a fruitier beer, light and refreshing.”
The BrewHaHa is not just about beer. Blue Bee Cider, Buskey Cider and Black Heath Meadery, all located in Richmond, will also be at the festival.
Blue Bee is bringing its Harrison cider, which mimics what Colonial-era Americans were drinking as a table beverage, said its founder and owner, Courtney Mailey. “Noted pomologist William Coxe wrote in 1817 of it being a ‘high coloured, rich, and sweet cider of great strength,’” Mailey said.
Blue Bee’s Harrison is “hazy in appearance, with a zesty apple aroma and notes of orange zest and golden raisin in the flavor profile,” Mailey said.
Ardent’s Fain, likely speaking for all the brewers participating in BrewHaha, expressed gratitude for the new perspective he gained on his craft.
“I think it is a rare and special thing to be able to look back in time and share this connection with our brewing forefathers,” he said. “Though the equipment may change throughout time, the passion and creativity remains constant in the brewing community.”