“Give me liberty or give me beer”! - National Beer Day

by Marty Nopper, Tastemaker in Residence

“Give me liberty or give me beer”!  Ok, so maybe that’s not how most remember what came out of Patrick Henry’s mouth in 1775 at the Virginia Second Convention.  But, maybe it should have been.  You see, as we draw near to National Beer Day with child-like anticipation (think Easter morning and looking for your basket), there are a lot of similarities between our forefathers and National Beer Day. Let me give you a little history (this will make you all pucker in Massachusetts)!.

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According to history and more recently Awakenings Blogspot, Virginia is known by many names. ”The nickname 'Old Dominion" originated in Colonial days. Dominion refers to complete ownership of a particular piece of land or territory. Around 1663, King Charles II considered the Virginians "the best of his distant children" thus elevating Virginia to the status of dominion along with England, Scotland, Ireland and France”.

Virginia is also referred to as the "Mother of Presidents" because it is the birthplace of eight US presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson. Four of the first five presidents were Virginians.

“Just when you think you’ve learned enough for one sesh, The Professor of Pints tosses in the extra credit…”Virginia has been called the 'Mother of States’ because she was the first of the states to be settled and because of the number of states that were "born" of the Virginia territory. West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and, even a part of Minnesota were all a part of the original Virginia territory.”  Don’t see MassachMassachusettsusettes on that list. And just so you don’t become unhinged and think I may be a Tom Brady hater, let me clear the foam from your heady New England IPA. Virginia is where our country began...the founding of Jamestown on the banks of the James River, our first permanent English colony, in Virginia in 1607 – 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in Massachusetts! As David Essex would say, “Rock on!” (ask your parents, kids). Each of the representations described above independently, as well as in combination, attribute to Virginia being declared the "Birthplace of a Nation!”

Let’s get back to that speech I mentioned earlier.  According to the history books I read (they may be different now-another story) and the Colonial Williamsburg Society, this speech by Patrick Henry - Speech: was supposed to be in Williamsburg, the actual birthplace of our nation (sidebar: Jamestown is actually where the future colonists landed but is essentially part of Williamsburg-just go with it) and the capital at that time. It was moved to St Johns Church in Richmond to avoid a dustup with the tea swilling Brits led by Lieutenant Governor Dunmore and his Royal Marines. Henry was there to discuss plans for the development of a militia to protect our beer drinking rights (not entirely true) ahead of the Crown actually responding to our last reconciliation plea.

But Teacher Marteen, this is all so unbelievably informative. How does National Beer Day relate to Richmond, Williamsburg, Richmond, Virginia or whatever it is that you’re trying to point out in your well-oiled way?  We’re getting thirsty!  Easy children…put down the pack and the Michelob Ultra. Here is where the Educator of Eyebright pours it straight from the tap.  Soon, we are celebrating National Beer Day, right?  Does anyone outside of Virginia have ANY clue how this ‘holiday’ started? Anyone ever heard of Justin Smith? No? Me neither. In researching this blog, I allowed Wikipedia to fill my otherwise amber nectar-filled mind with a bunch of mind grub.  Here goes. 

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According to Wikipedia, “National Beer Day is celebrated in the United States every year on April 7, marking the day that the Cullen–Harrison Act was enacted after having been signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 22, 1933. Upon signing the legislation, Roosevelt made his famous remark, "I think this would be a good time for a beer." The law went into effect on April 7 of that year, allowing people to buy, sell and drink beer containing up to 3.2% alcohol by weight (or 4.05% by volume) in states that had enacted their own law allowing such sales. People across the country responded by gathering outside breweries, some beginning the night before. On that first day, 1.5 million barrels of beer were consumed, inspiring the future holiday. Today, April 7 is recognized as National Beer Day.” Why you ask? “But we’re getting really sleepy from this Corona Light, Schooler of the Suds!” Wow, didn’t think Mr. Sandman would be here that early into that pint...

National Beer Day was first created in 2009 by Justin Smith of, wait for it, Richmond, VA. After much prodding from his friend, Smith started a Facebook page that was noticed by a Colorado Beer Examiner. Smith's promoting of the new holiday via various social media outlets was rewarded when the beer drinking app, "Untappd", created a badge for National Beer Day that rewarded participants that checked a beer into the app on April 7. Thus, National Beer Day has since been trending every year on April 7 using the hashtag #NationalBeerDay. BAM! There it is. Birthplace of a nation. Birthplace of a holiday. And a very important one at that. Thanks, Justin!

Finally, the fun part of our time together-Beer drinking! Easter basket in a glass! In honor of everything I have just mentioned, you may think it hard to pick one of The Commonwealth’s finest barley pops for this tome. Certainly, you can’t expect me to quaff every homegrown Virginia product (that would take at least a weekend) and review it, right? I wish. What I did was to select a Williamsburg produced libation as an homage to the birthplace of our nation. I designated Alewerks Brewing Company and decided to check out a darkly roasted delicacy, Paycheck Porter. Clocking me in at 5.6 ABV, this dark mug of mud produces a very creamy head, perfect for producing a Rorschach image when dissolved that you could debate for the next hour. Very drinkable to the accustomed palate, initial gulps scream “I’ve gotta have another” (or maybe that’s me because this millennial dude next to me brought his 2-year-old to my brew fest).  Loaded with toastiness (not my brain yet), I sense influences of coffee and malt (more malty than coffee).  With very little aftertaste, this brew makes you wish for a plate of home fries and a pickle (maybe I should have eaten breakfast). 

Try going when you can get out to the Biergarten. This is a very drink-friendly environment that will even surprise you with some great bar food when the need arises. With 16 taps running all the time, The Taproom features new releases, year-round classics like Paycheck Porter and, on occasion, some exclusive pours.  Dog-friendly (service dogs only in Taproom) and serving non-alcoholic brews, this is the perfect place for a get together any day of the week (yes, every day!!!). This is a small local speakeasy that even Patrick Henry would be proud to support!