Monticello Reserve Ale
A revolution is brewing in the
artisanal beer world, inspired by the taste of Thomas Jefferson and what was
brewed historically at Monticello. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, in
collaboration with Starr Hill Brewery, announces the launch of Monticello
Reserve Ale, the official beer of Monticello.
The media is invited to a tasting preview, Thursday, February 10, at 11 a.m.
in the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center Museum Shop. Starr Hill Monticello
brews Jefferson–inspired aleBrewery Master Brewer Mark Thompson and curator
Justin Sarafin will be available for interviews following presentation of
the beer. Tastings will also be provided.
The public is invited to a free tasting to celebrate the launch of
Monticello Reserve Ale, Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 21, 12 p.m.- 3
p.m.– in the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center Museum Shop. The launch will
include the tapping of the first keg. Free tastings will be provided.
Monticello Reserve Ale is inspired by what was produced and consumed
regularly at Monticello. It is made from a combination of wheat and corn,
Brewing beer was an important plantation activity at Monticello. Beer, one
of the “table liquors” served with meals, was a staple of the Jefferson
household. Records go back to 1772, when Jefferson’s wife Martha oversaw the
periodic brewing operations, producing 15 gallon casks of small beer – beer
with low alcohol content – about every two weeks.
In 1815, Jefferson writes in a letter to Joseph Coppinger (himself a
“I am lately become a brewer for family use, having had the benefit of
instruction to one of my people by an English brewer of the first order.”
Larger scale brewing began with the appearance of a British brewer detained
in Albemarle County during the War of 1812. Captain Joseph Miller improved
upon the quality and quantity of Monticello beer, introducing ale, stronger
beer suited to storage. While at Monticello, Joseph Miller trained the
enslaved Peter Hemings in the arts of malting and brewing. Hemings – a
brother of Sally – carried on the brewing operations, making 100 gallons of
ale every spring and fall.
Jefferson wrote in 1821 that he had “no receipt for brewing,” doubting “if
the operations of malting and brewing could be successfully performed from a
receipt.” Using ingredients grown on the Monticello plantation, Jefferson’s
brews varied based on the grains that were available at any given time,
including barley, and larger quantities of corn and wheat. At Monticello,
about three-quarters of a pound of hops were used for every bushel of malt.
Monticello Reserve Ale will be sold in 750ml bottles and served on tap at
local restaurants. It will be brewed and bottled locally by Starr Hill
Brewery LLC, in Crozet, Virginia, by Master Brewer Mark Thompson. Starr Hill
has won 14 prestigious awards for its craft beers.