Friday, 25 September 2009

Beer O’Clock: Hail to the Chief!

george_washington  When George Washington retired from the Presidency after two terms and, like Cincinattus before him, went back to his plough – setting a two-term precedent for future Presidents unbroken until FDR’s four-term power-grab one-hundred and sixty years later – it wasn’t just time behind the plough and his wife’s great cooking he had in his mind’s eye.

You see, George wasn’t just a great general, a great statesman and a great man – he was also one of history’s great drinkers.  The BarAmerica blog has the lowdown:

mount-gay-rum-holiday-egg-nog     “Records show that the father of [America] especially enjoyed a cocktail of sorts known as 'flip,' a drink made from beer, rum, cream, sugar, and eggs. As a general, he was sure to keep his soldiers content and supplied with plenty of fresh beer. As a politician, he reportedly once publicly gave away 75 gallons of free rum to reward the voters that elected him to Virginia's House of Burgesses.”

And unlike what might happen today with such a gift, this was after his election, not before.  And out of his own money, not that of his electors.

    “As a homebrewer too, he was known to cook-up up a batch or two of stout on occasion. Washington was certainly was not alone among the founding fathers as a lover of spirits; he wrote that after the constitution had been framed, "the business being closed, the members adjourned to the City Tavern."
    It's no surprise to us here at BarAmerica that alongside rugged individualism and a passionate commitment to freedom and free trade, enjoyment of strong drink was, and remains to this day, an integral part of America's proud national heritage.”

Unfortunately however, there was another legacy too that Washington  left drinkers. Persuaded by his Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton to tax whiskey to pay off the National Debt – although Hamilton confided to friends he’d proposed it “more as a measure of social discipline than as a source of revenue" – Washington imposed a tax an all distillers, including a larger tax on all small distillers which at the time included himself.  The tax was all but uncollectible however, inspiring not “social discipline” but the Whiskey Rebellion, a tradition of bootleg corn liquor in Kentucky in Tennessee, and (although this particular impost failed to take hold and was eventually abandoned) the beginning of a tradition of “sin taxes” that continues today.

And after it was all over Washington was said to have voiced the opinion that the rebellion had at least roused Americans once again to resist the tyranny of a nanny government – the same resistance they showed in the era of Prohibition, when Americans began “drinking on principle” in the face of government efforts to stop them.

Something to think about as today’s wowsers (bit by nannying bit) seek to reduce our our own alcoholic pursuit of happiness.

Have a great weekend despite them – or even especially to spite them.



  1. Glorious: 'when we've finished this business, we'll go to the pub' Funny I've just said the same thing at here at work. Washington sounds like a real good bastard. Cheers

  2. Several of the founding fathers were brewers. In fact, here is a discussion and recipe for a beer the likes of which Ben Franklin used to brew, created for celebrating his tercentenary, and brewed by craft breweries all over the USA at the time. Kinda cool, I thought.

  3. Washington saddled up and led an assault on those individuals who refused to pay the tax. He was responsible for putting down the Whiskey Rebellion. The tax rebels were hung.


  4. LGM

    I understand that Washington pardoned the men who were sentenced to hang.


  5. He pardoned the ones who were arrested and sentenced to hang. There were hangings.



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