The legendary Benjamin Franklin was a multi-talented, relentlessly creative Colonial-era renaissance man who also brewed and drank beer. In his writings, Franklin referred to various types of ale, and concluded that its consumption was healthy in moderation – an observation with which modern medical science fully concurs.
What did these ales of old taste like?
In 2006, as part of a nationwide promotion on the occasion of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, NABC’s brewers at the time tweaked a Colonial-era recipe provided to members of the Brewers Association, and the result was our first ever batch of Old Lightning Rod. Ever the diligent beery scientists, we’ve repeated the experiment every year since, and the ale keeps tasting better and better.
In 2015, NABC will observe Old Lightning Rod Day for the tenth time, beginning on Sunday, January 18 at Bank Street Brewhouse, and carrying over to the Pizzeria & Public House on the following day (Monday, January 19), which appropriately is the occasion for honoring another great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Franklin’s actual date of birth was January 17, 1706, making him 309 years young … and cheers to that.
These two days will mark the tapping of this year’s batch of Old Lightning Rod, which is a cult favorite but only a small batch, and served only on draft – so get your pints and growlers while it lasts.
Old Lightning Rod
Colonial Dark Ale, brewed by Ben Minton at NABC’s R & D Brewery
Color: Dark brown to black.
Flavor: Medium- to full-bodied, sweetish and malt-heavy. Distinctive flavor comes from molasses and/or sorghum.
Compare to: No commercial examples, but OLR is in the same flavor range as darker, sweeter beers like Wee Heavy, Doppelbock and some higher-gravity Belgians.
Description: “Let thy discontents be thy secrets” with this annual January release commemorating the birthday of Benjamin Franklin. Old Lightning Rod is a throwback strong ale from Colonial American times, incorporating “triangular” molasses (or sorghum) as an adjunct, and encapsulating Franklin’s sly founder’s wisdom.
Recipe suggestion: Our good friend Steve Thomas of the Thomas Family Winery in Madison, Indiana, makes fine wine and delicious ciders and scrumpy, and still has time to periodically cater fine victuals in his guise as “His Lordship’s Beef.” With Old Lightning Rod (use earthenware or ceramic vessels to establish mood), Steve recommends an entrée of Steak and Ale, with Ben Franklin’s favorite side items: Clapshot (turnips and potatoes in butter) and Pease (peas in chicken stock and butter, topped with fresh mint).
Addendum: Other beers in NABC’s Heritage Series of occasional season releases:
Kaiser 2nd Reising … Pre-Prohibition Pilsner
Mt. Lee … California Common “Steam”
Phoenix Kentucky Komon … Kentucky Common