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  • Writer's pictureTSB Adam

Mash Tun Time Machine

This may surprise those that know me, but brewing is not my only hobby. But if I'm being honest, it sorta influences all of my other hobbies. I love to cook, but that's close enough to brewing that it might not count. I regularly find ways to sneak beer into the food afterall. I like to bike and run, but that's more about attempting to keep the beer belly in check. And I love history - reading historic fiction and nonfiction and doing my own research - and yeah, some of that has to do with brewing.

I've been a history buff as long as I can remember. I blame that on my mother - I spent my afternoons in my hometown's library with her as the resident librarian, flipping through books and magazines. Ancient Egypt and the Wild West fascinated me. I fantasized about traveling back in time to experience the pyramids being built or to see the shootout at the OK Corral first hand. Sadly, time travel will never be possible (future time travelers please correct me... NOW), but we can get close by visiting the places they lived and by eating and drinking what they did.

A (full!) bottle of Potosi Bock from ~1950 behind my home bar

Dogfish Head introduced me to this idea of beer time travel through their Ancient Ale series. This lead me to seeking out other examples such as Professor Briem's series. Beyond that, it's mostly a DIY pursuit. Online, beer historian Ron Pattinson of Shut Up About Barclay Perkins has contributed countless recipes of UK and continental beers from the last 200+ years. Which is great for the other side of the pond, but what about here in the US? I haven't been able to find much at all - other than George Washington's recipe of oats, molasses, and hops (that just doesn't sound very tasty). So it looks like I have my work cut out for me if I want to time travel very far into the past for my homeland.

I've started digging through old local newspapers for articles and advertisements that mention the area's beers and breweries. Davenport has a long history of beer brewing, dating back to before the Civil War, with some late 19th century breweries, taverns, and brewer's homes still standing today. However, these are just shadows rather than preserved historical artifacts. If there are recipes or records, I have yet to uncover them, but I have found some tantalizing hints. There are mentions of beers made with all Scott County grown grain and more than a little copying of names and styles from the mega brewers from nearby Milwaukee. I can look at their records and recipes and make an educated guess about what my predecessors were making here over a century ago.

I guess the point of this entry is to ask you to stay tuned - a beer or two may come out of this research. I have a Pre-Prohibition Porter and Pre-Prohibition Lager on right now - why not add a Pre-Prohibition Weissbier? What other beers have been unjustly left behind in the past?

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