Making Beer – 1832 Style!

An Excerpt from The American Frugal Housewife, by Lydia M. Child

Disclaimer: This home-brew recipe is from 1832, so there is always the possibility that it may not be 100% safe or hygienic by modern standards. I reproduce it here as an historical artifact only, and accept no liability for your results, should you decide to “try this at home…”


Beer is a good family drink. A handful of hops, to a pailful of water, and a half-pint of molasses, makes good hop beer. Spruce mixed with hops is pleasanter than hops alone. Boxberry, fever-bush, sweet fern, and horseradish make a good and healthy diet-drink. The winter evergreen, or rheumatism weed, thrown in, is very beneficial to humors. Be careful and not mistake kill-lamb for winter-evergreen; they resemble each other. Malt mixed with a few hops makes a weak kind of beer; but it is cool and pleasant; it needs less molasses than hops alone. The rule is about the same for all beer. Boil the ingredients two or 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. If your family be large, and the beer will be drank rapidly, it may as well remain in the barrel; but if your family be small, fill what bottles you have with it; it keeps better bottled. A raw potato or two, cut up and thrown in, while the ingredients are boiling, is said to make beer spirited.

Ginger beer is made in the following proportions:—One cup of ginger, one pint of molasses, one pail and a half of water, and a cup of lively yeast. Most people scald the ginger in half a pail of water, and then fill it up with a pailful of cold; but in very hot weather some people stir it up cold. Yeast must not be put in till it is cold, or nearly cold. If not to be drank within twenty-four hours, it must be bottled as soon as it works.

Table beer should be drawn off into stone jugs, with a lump of white sugar in each, securely corked. It is brisk and pleasant, and continues good several months.

This is an excerpt from The American Frugal Housewife, by Lydia M. Child, which is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book download editions from Better Days Books. Find out more at

Originally published in 1832, this extraordinary manual for the homemaker of modest means is far more than a mere “cookbook.” In an age before electricity, refrigeration or any other modern convenience, the fine art of storing, preparing and serving food presented difficulties unimagined in our time, challenges our forebears mastered with ingenuity, hard work, the inherited knowledge of generations past, and the sheer American pluck required to make the cheerful best of any social or economic situation. Also included are instructions for making soap, beer and wine, for repairing worn clothing and furniture, for enduring poverty, and even for rightly educating one’s daughters. A rich treasure trove of practical frontier knowledge, Lydia M. Child’s The American Frugal Housewife is an essential volume for contemporary homesteaders, antiquarian collectors, and anyone who longs for a firsthand taste of real American history.


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