Chapter V. Brewing in the South

In the Southern provinces, unfavorable soil and climate conspired with other unpropitious circumstances to exclude brewing almost entirely. Sporadic attempts to introduce it were quickly frustrated, no less by reason of a lack of suitable raw materials than on account of a want of skilled brewers; and also, perhaps, because domestic spirits could be had more cheaply.


In Virginia, as early as 1652, one George Fletcher had obtained the exclusive right to "brew in wooden vessels, which none had experience in but himself," but his product evidently found little favor, for we read no more of him or his wooden vessels.

From the instructions given to the governors of Virginia by the London Company and from other equally direct evidences, it is to be inferred that the repression of excesses in drinking, and the creation of agricultural conditions favoring the home production of wine and beer were the two principal objects of the government's care. The latter project, for reasons already indicated, failed of realization.

The common beverages then used by the people were imported wines, strong beer and ardent spirits, and domestic beer, of which latter an inconsiderable quantity was brewed in the households of the colonists. The former drinks were retailed not only by keepers of ordinaries (taverns), but also by victuallers and merchants. Debts for wine and ardent liquors were excluded from the obligations pleadable in court. No mention is made of beer in this connection, and from the exception thus made it is fair to conclude that a discrimination in favor of malt liquors was intended. Without further corroboration this inference might be exposed to the reproach of being far fetched; but fortunately, such corroboration is not wanting. It is contained in an act, passed in 1644, which provides, among other things, "that no ordinary keeper or victualler be permitted at all to sell or utter any wine or strong liquor BUT STRONG BEER ONLY. And that, according to order of the first of August, 1643, no debts made for wines and strong water, shall be pleadable or recoverable in any court of justice in this Colony."

A double discrimination is here made in favor of malt liquors, viz., one in explicit terms, permitting the sale of strong beer only, and an implied one in the clause which excludes debts for wines and strong waters (not for beer) from the list of obligations legally pleadable. The fact is that beer was considered an indispensable part of every regular meal.

Among the "staple commodities" sought to be encouraged by law, in 1658, we find hops and wine; the premium on the latter being ten thousand pounds of tobacco for "two tunne of wine" raised in any colonial vineyard.

The importation of English malt and malt liquors increased rapidly, because domestic brewing and malting remained in an unsatisfactory condition. Roger Beverly gives the following interesting description of the manufacture and use of drinks at about this time:

"The richer sort generally brew their small beer with malt, which they have from England, though they have as good barley of their own as any in the world; but for want of the convenience of malt houses, the inhabitants take no care to sow it. The poorer sort brew their beer with molasses and bran; with Indian corn malted by drying in a stove; with persimmons dried in cakes, and baked, with potatoes; with the green stalks of Indian corn cut small and bruised; with pompions; and with the btates canadenses, or jerusalem artichoke, which some people plant purposely for that use, but this is the least esteemed of all the sorts before mentioned.

"Their strong drink is Madeira wine, which is a noble strong wine; and punch, made either of rum from the Caribbe Island, or brandy distilled from their apples, and peaches; besides French brandy, wine and strong beer, which they have continually from England.

In 1748, the Sabbath question first entered into legislation on the liquor traffic. No mention is made of the subject in any of the preceding acts, not even in those passed during the Cromwellian reign, when the Puritan idea, that the State should by legislative enactment enforce complete inactivity and abandonment to spiritual contemplation on Sunday, had gained popular favor. The act passed in that year contained the following clauses referring to the Sabbath:

..."If any ordinary keeper shall in his house permit unlawful gaming, or suffer any person or persons to tipple in his house, or drink any more than is necessary, on the Lord's day, or any other day set apart by public authority for religious worship...the court may disable such offender from keeping ordinary thereafter, until they shall think fit to grant him a new license, or may restore him to keep ordinary upon his former license, as they shall see cause."

In 1769 the cause of temperance achieved two signal successes; one consisting in the revocation of the import duty on beer, and the other in the renewal of legislation encouraging viticulture. The idea of fostering the manufacture of malt liquors found many advocates at this time, and there can be no doubt that many of the best Americans strove, by precept and example, to bring about a change of drinking habits, in the manner indicated, long before the passage of the two acts just cited.

As to the encouragement of wine making in Virginia, we have seen that it dates back to the earliest periods of Colonial legislation, and that then it was suggested by the abundance of grapes found everywhere by the first settlers. Neither of these early attempts nor subsequent efforts led to any lasting results, because viticulture was not understood by the English colonists, while the French vintners, who, on uncommonly favorable terms, had been induced to emigrate to Virginia on the condition that they plant vineyards and instruct the colonists in viticulture, failed to do what was expected of them, finding the planting of tobacco to be more profitable.

The sporadic attempts to encourage the manufacture of malt liquors was equally unsuccessful. The inducements offered to hop growers, even if they had been sufficiently alluring to tempt to abandon the profitable cultivation of tobacco, could not have over balanced the many difficulties which climate and the absence of industrial enterprise placed in the way of brewing. There was another drawback, however,---the cheapness of domestic spirits, which were not burdened by internal taxes.


Under circumstances and conditions similar to those prevailing in Virginia, the brewing trade in this Colony lagged far behind the comparatively rapid progress achieved in other respects. Enterprising Dutchmen from the settlements on the Delaware had intended years before to emigrate to Maryland for the purpose of introducing the brewing industry there; but a want of capital and other obstacles deterred them from carrying out their plans. In 1676 there were no malt houses in the province, and the planters, chiefly engaged in raising tobacco, saw no inducement to plant barley or any other cereal, beyond what they needed to make bread with. The poorer people brewed small beer from Indian corn dried in common stoves, and from molasses mixed with bran. As beer constituted an indispensable part of every meal, it is reasonable to assume that tavern keepers brewed a similar beer, unless they could obtain malt either from England, or from one of the other American colonies.

There appears to have been no lack of orchards at this time, and many planters made their own cider, and also brandy from apples. The fact that the law against selling liquors on Sunday contained a separate clause enjoining owners of orchards not to violate the said act, proves that these persons made a practice of selling their products.

Like their colleagues of Virginia, the lawmakers of this Colony honestly strove to encourage the domestic manufacture of fermented beverages, and, also like the Virginians, they believed that nothing would serve this laudable aim better than to make the domestic product cheaper than the imported article.

Of curious interest is a resolution of the Assembly, embodied in an act passed in 1674, declaring that "noe rates of prices of anie accommodacons be set or ascertained, but such only as are of absolute necessity for sustaining and refreshing travelers, that is to say, man's meat, beer, and lodging."

The Carolinas

The great difference between liquor licenses and wine licenses, in the matter of fees, in Carolina, shows how consistently the lawmakers adhered to the policy of favoring domestic viticulture. Even before the time when the immigration of the French refugees began to assume considerable proportions, wine made in the Colony from native grapes had been sent to England, where "the best palates well approved of it." It was then the general impression that if the planters continued to "prosecute the propagation of vineyards as industriously as they had begun it, Carolina would in a short time prove a magazine and staple for wines to the whole West Indies." The proprietors of the Colony had sent to the planters choice European grape vines for transplantation, and encouraged wine making in many ways. The only impediment in the way of a rapid development of viticulture appeared at that time to consist in the want of skilled vintners. The French refugees, it was hoped, would supply this want, and Carolina would in the end rival France and the Rhenish countries in the quality of her wines. These expectations were revived when the first colony of Switzers was planted in the province, and again, many years later, when the poor Germans, whom Stumpel had allured from their homes on the banks of the Rhine, were settled at Londonderry. Unfortunately for the cause of temperance, these expectations were not realized, owing to the cheapness of ardent spirits, which, before the end of the first half of the eighteenth century, had completely changed the tastes and habits of drinkers. That this was the real cause of the failure of every effort to foster viticulture, appears not to have been understood at the time. Indeed, as late as 1779 Alexander Hewitt, in his history of the Colony, expressed the belief, that the repeated failures were mainly attributable to the want of encouragement. "European grapes," he wrote, "have been transplanted, and several attempts made to raise wine; but so overshaded are the vines planted in the woods, and so foggy is the season of the year when they ripen, that they seldom come to maturity. But as excellent grapes have been raised in gardens where they are exposed to the sun, we are apt to believe that proper methods have not been taken for encouraging that branch of agriculture, considering its great importance in a national view."

No methods whatever could have made viticulture a favored occupation, so long as cheap rum monopolized the drink market. Indeed, after the rum habit was once firmly established, it would have been somewhat difficult, even under the most favorable conditions, to introduce either brewing or wine making, because, owing to the change in the taste of drinkers, there would have been no demand for either beer or wine. If during the first century, or even half century, rum had been as difficult to obtain and consequently as expensive as European spirits, the colonists would in all probability have brought viticulture or brewing to that stage of development which would have answered the domestic demand. We have it on the authority of a contemporaneous writer, that as early as 1680, Mr. Lynch, "an ingenious planter," had raised "barley of which he intended to make malt for brewing English beer and ale." He had all the necessary utensils for that purpose, and would probably have succeeded himself and found successful imitators, if it had not been for the rapid development of the rum traffic.


General Oglethorpe's description of the effects of the rum habit in the older settlements induced the trustees of this province to pass "an act to prevent the importation and use of rum and brandies in the province of Georgia, and any kinds of spirits or strong water whatsoever." Far from being identical with Prohibition in the modern sense of the term, this act had for its object neither more nor less than a change of drinking habits, to be effected by the substitution of wine and beer for the drinks prohibited. The same trustees who passed the prohibitory act, sent over large quantities of Madeira wine and strong beer; and Oglethorpe exerted himself in furthering domestic brewing and viticulture, which he conceived to be the only practicable means of making the people temperate. In this, he merely reflected, as we have seen, the opinions of the early lawmakers of nearly every Colony; but he went further in carrying out this idea that they did---in fact, he went too far, and thus overreached his object.

At the present day, the experiment made in Georgia over one hundred and sixty years ago, is highly interesting because it confirms the conviction, entertained by all those who have studied the drink question, that no temperance efforts can ever be successful unless they are accompanied by all the conditions that favor abundant production and consequent cheapness of good and palatable fermented drinks. Exert himself as he would, Oglethorpe could not supply beer or wine in such quantities and at such prices as to ensure the success of his measure. In the settlements of the Salzburgers the taste of the people helped to further his object; but even there, the drink called beer, which was made of molasses, sassafras and the tops of fir trees, proved but a poor substitute, scarcely calculated to satisfy a German palate. Oglethorpe fully understood that a steady and abundant supply of cheap beer was absolutely required to render the prohibitory act effective. In a letter to the trustees written at Fredericia,* [* The following curious episode of Oglethorpe's journey to Fredericia is reproduced in C.C. Jones' "Dead Towns of Georgia": "Mr. Oglethorpe accompanied them in his scout boat, keeping the fleet together, and taking the hindermost craft in tow. As an incentive to the unity of movement, he placed all the strong beer on board one boat. The rest labored diligently to keep up; for, if they were not all at the place of rendezvous each night, the tardy crew lost their rations.] under date of October 7, 1738, in which he urgently requested that fifty or sixty tuns of beer from the brewery of Hucks at Southwark be sent him, he said: "Cheap beer is the only means to keep rum out." It is extremely doubtful, whether under then existing circumstances cheap beer would have sufficed to keep rum out. There were other consideration which militated against Oglethorpe's purpose. His own people were dissatisfied with the law; they conceived it to be detrimental to their material interests, inasmuch as it debarred them from trading with the West Indies, "an excellent and convenient market for their lumber," as Hewitt has it. Besides, they were of the opinion, held by many competent judges in our time, that the climate of the province rendered the use of rum advisable from a sanitary point of view. The Carolinians could not be prevented from bringing rum into the Colony, although after the first altercation, which arose on account of this practice, they promised to desist from it. Hence rum could easily be had; and it is not difficult to understand that so long as good rum could be had cheaply, men accustomed to ardent liquors would not at short notice make poor beer their everyday beverage. Even Oglethorpe's immediate entourage could not be induced to discard rum for the questionable drink which he furnished them from his brewery at Jekyl. "Settlers and officers," says McCall, in his History of Georgia, "were known to retire from the presence of the general into an adjoining apartment in order to drink." But, worse than all, the magistrates themselves, who had the power to license ale houses, and were instructed to prevent and punish the sale of ardent spirits, engaged in the unlawful traffic, or openly connived at it.

No more need be said to show that the act was practically a dead letter, long before its repeal in 1742. A modern historian, the Rev. William B. Stevens, a sincere friend of true temperance, in reviewing Oglethorpe's efforts to substitute wine and beer for ardent spirits, says that "Georgia was designed to be a temperance colony, although no temperance movement had roused up the nations to the woe of drunkenness." And again, "Thus did temperance strive with charity to lay pure foundations, and build up a spotless superstructure of colonial virtue; but it was a movement too much in advance of the age, and too much opposed to the already settled habits of the colonists, to meet with the success it merited." A temperance colony with pure foundations and spotless superstructure of virtue by means of the substitution of fermented drinks for ardent liquors!

The Salzburgers were not the only people of temperate drinking habits whom Oglethorpe settled in his colony. Before them had come the Moravians---mostly beer drinking Germans---men and women of rare virtue and sincere piety, who embarked for Georgia on the same ship with the Governor and with John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, at present the creed of nine million Americans. Wesley, to quote Robert Southey's words "was so deeply impressed with the piety, simplicity and equanimity of these, his shipmates, "that he applied himself to the study of the German language in order to be able to converse with them more freely. He had seen them frequently during their tempestuous voyage, facing the menace of death with the unflinching calm and resignation of their absolute "Gottvertrauen," and it was doubtless on this voyage that he conceived the desires which, upon his return to England, made him a disciple of Peter Boehler, then on the eve of his departure for Georgia, and prompted him to visit the Moravians in Germany.

Neither the Moravians nor the Salzburgers of Georgia seem to have received at the hands of modern historians their due measure of appreciation. The somewhat indulgent contempt with which Jones in his "Dead Towns of Georgia" occasionally refers to the Salzburgers reveals a total lack of appreciation of these pious, upright and sturdy people whom one is strongly tempted to style the German Huguenots. Like their French co-religionists they were driven out of the land of their birth by the intolerance of tyrannical rulers, and, sacrificing all they possessed for the sake of their faith, they sought homes in foreign lands. Both were welcomed and received with open arms by the father of Frederick the Great, who colonized seventeen thousand of the Salzburgers in his provinces and would gladly have sheltered them all; but a part of the exodus was diverted to other lands and of that part Oglethorpe secured a few communities with their pastors whom he settled in Georgia.

Goethe immortalized the Salzburgers in his beautiful epic poem "Hermann and Dorothea"---"the German's pride and posy's pearl"---and in his history of Frederick the Great, Carlyle devotes one of his most interesting chapters to them; but what ought to bring them nearer to the American heart is the fact that Whitefield and Wesley called them colonists of the best description, dwelling together in perfect peace and harmony, without courts of law, referring all little differences to their ministers whom they loved as their fathers. Wesley said of the Georgia Moravians (all beer drinking Germans) that they were "the only genuine Christians he had ever met." Whitefield said of the Salzburgers' spiritual leaders that he had "not often seen such pious men." No greater praise can be conceived than that which Bancroft, America's master historian, bestows upon the Salzburgers in the second volume of his History of the United States. Jones' veiled slur about these people's eagerness to get their beer shows a petty bias which seems to crop up regularly whenever American historians lose sight of the close relationship that exists between the Anglo-Saxon and their Germanic cousins of other lands.

Unbiased minds will appreciate Oglethorpe's profound regret at his failure to carry out his plans, all the more so, if the present condition of things in Georgia be considered.

In the "dead towns" of that State a tombstone may here or there testify to the mundane existence of the Salzburgers; more rarely, perhaps, a German patronymic, corrupted or Anglicized, may remind one of these people; but that is practically all that is left of them. In Prussia, however, their brethren flourished, forming a most useful, prosperous and happy part of the population, who, as Carlyle puts it, had all reason on their annual thanksgiving days "piously to admit that Heaven's blessing had been upon that King and upon them."

From a general point of view, considering the South as a whole, it may be said that brewing had gained no firm foothold there during the Colonial period in spite of the fact that, besides the Salzburgers, there were several considerable German and Swiss settlements on the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers in North Carolina, on the Edisto River in South Carolina, and in many parts of Virginia.

In the middle of the last century, and in a few isolated cases somewhat earlier, brewing received a strong impetus through the influx of German immigrants, but the climate and other countervailing influences retarded its progress, as we shall presently see, until at a much later period improvements in the art itself and the perfecting of artificial refrigeration enabled the Southern brewer to carry on a profitable business adapted to the peculiar conditions of his environment.

In the chapter entitled "The Rise of Lager Beer," it will be shown what disasters have befallen Southern brewing under the operation of recent laws.

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