Sunday, August 1, 2010

'Beer is a Good Family Drink. ...'

That's the first sentence of the brief section on beer in the American Frugal Housewife, first published in 1828. You can go straight to Page 86 if you want.

"A handful of hops, to a pailful of water, and a half-pint of molasses, makes good hop beer. ... Boil the ingredients two to three hours, pour in a half-pint of molasses to a pailful, while the beer is scalding hot. Strain the beer, and when about lukewarm, put a pint of lively yeast to a barrel. Leave the bung loose till the beer is done working; you can ascertain this by observing when the froth subsides."

Sal Emma in Brew Your Own magazine mentioned the Frugal Housewife "recipe" about 14 years ago. Sal doesn't clarify the biggest mystery to me: How much was a "pailful"? A gallon? Three? Four?

I found a copy of that book lying around my in-laws house here in eastern Missouri, right next to The Homebrewer's Garden. And to think: They were dedicated Bud Select drinkers a few years ago. The Missus and I, a trip to Belgium, and the local homebrew club are among the forces that converted them. Also they're natural gardeners and farmers. They were goners as soon as they connected better beer with their pre-existing interests. They knew from experience that homegrown lettuce and tomatoes made for better salad.

These days there are hops growing like gangbusters on a trellis out by the pond.


  1. Love the title of this post. And I also believe that beer brings people together :)

  2. I found this recipe elsewhere and I found this page searching for the equivalent to a pailful. Did you ever find out? I want to make this recipe.

    I guess I could plug it into beersmith and play with it.

  3. Nope, not a clue. Let me know if you find out. (Either way, the recipe doesn't sound promising, but I admire your resolve.)

  4. Well this may not be the best way to go about it but I found pails from that era at auction sites. I calculated their volume, from their dimensions, to be about 2quarts.
    I plugged that into beersmith, which has molasses preloaded, with .5 oz of fuggles which seems right for an womans handful of cone hops. Fuggles because thats what I have in my yard.
    Brewsmith calculated the ABV at about 8% So I'm thinking I need to double the water. Maybe it was a 1 Gallon Pail.

  5. Two quarts may be near the mark. The beer may be strong-ish or else sweet and not thoroughly fermented.

    Seems like you could actually grab a handful of hops and throw it on the scale before the boil.