Evidence of brewing beer dates back to the 5th millennium BC. Believe it or not, prior to the 16th century, hops were rarely used in the brewing process. Bittering and flavoring consisted of herbs and botanical creations. From the Egyptians to the Knights of the Round Table, gruit beer is recorded in their history.
When the Reinheitsgebot purity law was established in Bavaria, it became illegal to brew beer with anything other than water, malt, and hops. If a brewer was caught violating the purity law, his/her beer would be confiscated without compensation. Gruit beer eventually phased out and hops became the weapon of choice.
There are a few breweries creating traditional gruit style ales today such as Dogfish Head, New Belgium, Mt. Pleasant, and Midnight Sun to name a few. These recreations must be appreciated with an open palate and mind. Go to your local bottle shop and check out their supply for a gruit beer.
What kind of herbs, spices, botanicals are traditionally used in a Gruit Beer?
Brewing gruit ale has unlimited possibilities and each batch can be a blank slate. The ability to create beer that tingles your lips is also likely. Here are some gruit ale recipes for those adventurous enough. These were discovered after trolling through forums/websites. I cannot guarantee the quality or end result. Try them or create your own in true Gruit Style.
On January 17, 1920 the Eighteenth Amendment (XVIII) took effect in the United States. This made the production, transport, and sale of (though not the consumption or private possession of) alcohol illegal. The Volstead Act was a sidebar that actually defined which intoxicating liquors were prohibited. It today’s terms, it was the gray area. This act also brought forth exclusions, such as alcohol for medicinal and religious purposes.
Welcome the kingpin of bootlegging, George Remus. George was a successful lawyer in Chicago who moved to Cincinnati after prohibition started to capitalize on the saturation of distilleries surrounding the area. Being a lawyer, Remus was obsessed with the loopholes of the Volstead Act and immediately found fortune in the exploitation of the gray undefined areas.
George realized that he could legally sell bonded liquor to himself for medicinal purposes if he simply bought out distilleries and pharmacies in the region. He bought out many of America’s more famous distilleries and would hire his own employees to hijack the inventory. It would then be resold for a much higher profit as bootlegged booze. He is even mentioned multiple times in the show Boardwalk Empire. This guy made Nucky Thompson look like a amateur. Over a three year span, Remus made well over 40 million dollars. He was rumored to be the inspiration for Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby. Brilliant!
George Remus also owned one of the most spectacular homes to ever exist in Price Hill. He threw crazy parties and handed out lavish gifts to those of power in Cincinnati. This guy gave out cars to the ladies who attended! In 1919, the southwest section of Price Hill was actually called Elberon Heights. His Hermosa estate was built by Henry Lackman of the Lackman Brewery. The home had a carriage house, stable, greenhouse, Grecian swimming pool, and a baseball diamond for the neighborhood kids.
At the same time he acquired the Lackman mansion, George also bought the Dater Farm in Westwood. He made this purchase for a strategic reason. It was off the grid, not visable to traffic, and close to the core of Cincinnati.
It was here that his largest bootlegging operation would take place. As a matter of fact, the majority of booze that reached Cincinnati came from what he called “Death Valley Farm”. When his inventory was falsely hijacked, it was brought here for storage and distribution. George Remus actually hired a small group of 10-12 men to protect the property from hijackers and trespassers. If you crossed the property line, you would be greeted with a shotgun.
Death Valley had a shell that appeared to be a small farm with barns, chickens, and a home on the property. The truth was far beyond the cookie cutter appearance. The barns held the majority of the bootlegged liquor and even beer. The home was a centralized station for distribution logistics throughout the Greater Cincinnati area. Each barn had a cellar and there were a few tunnels that reached Queen City Ave. George strictly conducted cash transactions and it is rumored that some of his earnings were buried on the property in the event a raid would ever occur. It is also rumored that he has a hidden vault built between 1918-1923 to protect his millions of dollars. The vault could be somewhere in Cincinnati or in Newport, KY. His business partner Buck Brady, was likely the only other person to know where this safe was located. Find the property records and you just may find a vault.
Eventually, a regular Death Valley customer was flagged down in Indiana, and his fault led to a warrant on the property. George Remus was aware of the suspicious activity in the Cincinnati area and ordered his men to removed all booze from the farm. His men failed to remove the liquor in time. The Death Valley location was shut down due to a surprise Sunday raid. He was not concerned because his additional halfway houses in Hamilton, Reading, Glendale, Buffalo, Pennsylvania, California, New York, and New York City were thriving.
In 1925, George Remus was found guilty on multiple counts and sentenced to 2 years in prison on violations tied to the Volstead Act. While serving his prison sentence, he met an inmate by the name of Franklin Dodge. During his time spent with Franklin, he admitted that his wife had full control over his assets. He was telling this to an undercover agent positioned as a faux inmate. Dodge left prison after hearing this information and started a relationship with George’s wife (Imogene Remus). They liquidated everything leaving a couple hundred dollars to George.
When George Remus was released from prison, his wife immediately filed for divorce. On the day they were to attend a court hearing, George paid off a cab driver to run Imogene’s car off the road in Eden Park. It was in front of the Spring House Gazebo where she was fatally shot in the abdomen by George. It is said she still haunts the gazebo that overlooks the mirror lake.
George Remus was somehow found not guilty by reason of insanity and only served 6 months in an institution. He lived the remainder of his life in Covington off of the grid and supposedly lived very comfortably. That raises question about the rumored hidden vault. He died in 1952. He was in his seventies.
In Cincinnati, you now have two options to celebrate the legend of George Remus. There is George Remus Whiskey and Fifty West Death Valley Shootout Imperial Stout. They also have a version aged in Remus Whiskey barrels! Check out Fifty West’s other Remus inspired beers throughout the year.
We often forget about the importance beer played in the foundation of the country we love so much. In the 1800’s, beer was a huge component to the daily diet for most families, including their children. As a matter of fact, families kept sacred cookbooks that contained family beer recipes alongside food recipes dating back hundreds of years. Until modern water treatment surfaced, it was generally safer to drink beer than water. American families were a different kind of poor back then. There were no support systems established in 1840, outside of the church. When a family needed nutrition, beer played a crucial role in survival. Even if they were lacking the money to eat well, people drank fairly well.
Beer usually consisted of locally acquired ingredients. Hop pellets, specialty grains, lab controlled yeasts, and artificial flavorings did not exist. An open fire with an iron pot is how it went down. If a cheap beer was desired, local adjunct items were collected and often mixed with molasses.
Anyways, I was recently given permission by the Cincinnati library to view a rare book dating back to 1840. I had to lock my belongings in a secured room and was not permitted to use any flash photography. This was only to protect the original copy of the book. Fortunately, I was allowed to snap some photos with my phone. White’s New Cook Book is a collection of family remedies, recipes, and blueprints distributed to the residents of the growing Cincinnati area. Check out these awesome old beer recipes. Try one! However, I promise they will not match our current selections.
Before Ballantine beer came in a shameful 40oz container and shared the shelf with Olde English and Colt 45, it was great beer. Actually, they brewed some pretty amazing concoctions for back in the day. They were a large scale brewery with craft beer brewing care. They self distributed locally and brewed seasonal and one time release brews. Impressive to say the least.
The Ballantine Brewing Company dates back to the 1840’s in New Jersey. A Scottish immigrant named Peter Ballantine decided to commercially produce his well respected recipes. They were brewing quality beers under a few different names until the company closed in 1972. Miller Coors now brews the beer and the original recipe has been flushed As of 2005. During their years of brewing Pallantine released ales, lagers, porters, stouts, a dark lager, and a bock. Their most prized beers were an aromatic IPA that was aged in wood for a year before bottling and the sought after Burton Ale. This ale was aged for 10-20 years in wood before being gifted. It was never sold commercially and was only given as a special Christmas gift to distributors and serious VIPs.
So you now have an idea about the amazing history of the Ballantine Brewery and the awesome legendary beers that USED to hold this name. Here are two original Ballantine recipes for you to brew up. However, if you do the IPA…age it in wood for a year. It just seems like the right way to finish this beer.
I was rummaging through some more old books and came across “Aunt Babette’s Cook Book: Foreign and domestic receipts” c1889. This is a Jewish cookbook published by The Bloch Publishing and Printing Company which had a location in Cincinnati, OH. It’s an amazing collection of receipts and is well worth the read.
After reading some of Aunt Babette’s receipts for game, I will never complain about my options at the dinner table again. However, I am intrigued by her Beer Soup, Hot Beer, and Eierbier receipts. So, I did a little research.
Eierbier and Hot Beer: This is a receipt that came over to America with the German and Polish immigrants in the 1800’s. There are many records from the early 1800’s mentioning this odd beer concoction. It was often described as a cold weather drink that is warm and creamy to enjoy. Yuck! I am not planning on trying this anytime soon.
Beer Soup: Believe it or not, this dates back to the Carolingian Empire. Beer soup for breakfast? Indeed!
Here are some additional receipts that I found interesting:
If you would like to read the entire book of receipts, you can download it here from BeerMumbo. Cheers and please let us know if you decide to take on one of these receipts.
We often forget about the importance beer played in the settlement of the country we love so much. In the early 1800′s, beer was a huge component to the daily diet for the majority of most Americans including children. Women even drank beer when they breast fed because it was believed to provide nutrients to the unborn child. Kids also assisted in brewing beer and worked in breweries through the early 1900’s. As a matter of fact, families kept sacred cookbooks that contained family beer recipes alongside food recipes that often dated back hundreds of years. Until modern sanitation methods surfaced, it was safer to drink beer than water. If you were going boil water, why not make beer. People were a different kind poor back then. When a family needed nutrition, it was up to them to find a means to get by. Beer played a crucial role in survival and social life. If you didn’t have money to eat well…you drank well because it was cheap to brew items that could be fermented.
Beer consisted of locally acquired ingredients. Hop pellets, specialty grains, lab controlled yeasts, and artificial flavorings did not exist. An open fire with an iron pot is how you rolled. If you wanted a cheap beer, items were collected and often mixed with molasses. It was hard for families to acquire grains all the time. Therefore, other items were often used to grab sugars starches needed to make alcohol.
Anyways, I was recently given permission by the Cincinnati library and a few historical societies to view some of the rarest books in Cincinnati dating back to 1820. Check out these awesome old time beer recipes. Try one! However, I promise they will not match our current selections.
Check these photos out:
Ohio Recipe Book of the 1820’s – 1820
Family Receipts, or Practical Guide for the Husbandman and Housewife. Cincinnati – 1831
White’s New Cook-Book – 1840
Here are some bonus items found in this book from 1840. Can chicken jelly can cure a hangover? I am definitely not willing to give it a shot!
The original landing spot for travelers in Cincinnati was Yeatmans Cove. The keelboats would land and the first Cincinnati legend (Mike Fink) and his crew would pull your keelboat to shore. It was said 20-30 men would be needed to pull the keelboats. However, Mike Fink could do this alone (probably totally untrue). The villagers described him as half man, half horse, half alligator who could out drink, out fight, and out dance any man who stepped in his way. The villagers must have drank a lot. Continue reading Beer History – Yeatmans Tavern