Guides and Materials About Mr. Franklin
An Introduction
Ben Across the Curriculum
Essay Contest
Essay Contest
Poor Richard's Ale Chosen
October 3, 2005
Denver, Colorado
Ben Franklin’s 300th Birthday Brew Chosen:

On the eve of the Great American Beer Festival, hundreds of craft brewers from across the United States gathered for a preliminary pint (or two) in the Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado.

Meanwhile, downstairs in the Wynkoop’s Presidential Dining Room, five judges had assembled to make an important decision: their job was to select the winning recipe for “Poor Richard’s Ale” – a beer that Americans nationwide will be able to hoist in January 2006 to honor the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin, beer lover, scientist, statesman, and revolutionary. “Poor Richard” is the name Franklin adopted to write his best-selling almanacs, in which Franklin was at his most witty and down-to-earth.

To settle the question, and to choose the winner, five great beers met five great judges – and two of the judges even claimed to be Franklin descendents. Seated behind the competition table, and hemmed in by dozens of empty tasting-glasses and rows of unopened bottles of candidate beers, were the following judges:

• Nicola Twilley, Director of Public Programming for the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary

• William Brand, author of “What’s On Tap,” a beer and cider column for the Oakland Tribune

• Steve Bradt, Brewmaster at Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, KS, and a member of the Brewers Association Board of Directors

• John Mallett, Production Manager of Kalamazoo Brewing Co., Kalamazoo, MI

• John Harris, Brewmaster at Full Sail River Place, Portland, OR

Awaiting judgment by this phalanx of beer-drinking expertise were five hand-crafted and painstakingly researched beers made by these members of the Brewers Association:

• Chuck Skypeck, of Boscos Nashville Brewing Co., Nashville, TN

• Tony Simmons, of Brick Oven Brewing Co., Pagosa Springs, CO

• Zac Triemert, of Upstream Brewing Co., Omaha, NE

• Matt Van Wyk, of Flossmor Station Brewing Co., Flossmoor, IL

• Fred Scheer, also of Boscos Nashville Brewing Co.

Tentatively at first, but with increasing confidence, the judges sniffed, swirled, sipped – and then asked for more. Even the audience got into the act, soon demanding – and receiving – their own samples of the dueling beers. With three of the competing brewers present in the room, a lively back-and-forth ensued, covering hop varietals, choice of sweeteners, and the historical accuracy of different ingredients (not to mention the resulting taste).

Chuck Skypeck and Fred Scheer, working independently at different locations of the same brewing company, had arrived at very different end-points. Chuck’s refreshing colonial-era stock ale employed unprocessed cane sugar, while Fred had added entire spruce tree branches to the mash, inspired by a recipe in Franklin’s papers for a “Spruce Ale.” Matt Van Wyk’s brown ale was sweetened with blackstrap molasses, for a full-bodied heartiness. Zac Triemert, meanwhile, a trained microbiologist, stressed the experimental nature of his brew, which he felt represented the spirit of Benjamin Franklin. Indeed, his brew, already popular in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, was a favorite with all of the judges involved.

Zac’s brew fell, however, to the rich taste and impressively thorough historical research done by Tony Simmons. Tony’s coup de grace was the use of corn as an adjunct, a decision he arrived at based on the high cost of imported malt and the unreliability of local barley crop harvests in Franklin’s time. Indeed, Franklin, writing under the pen-name “Homespun,” encouraged Americans to make more use of native foodstuffs – including corn – to avoid colonial dependence on Britain.

Tony Simmons’s winning recipe for “Poor Richard’s Ale” will be shared with Brewers Association members across the country. Each craft brewery will be invited to produce a batch for January 2006, so that Americans in all 50 states can look forward to a glass or two of Ben’s 300th birthday brew. Tony himself will be invited to bring his beer to Philadelphia, where it will be served to statesmen, diplomats, and cultural leaders at the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary’s January 17, 2006, VIP birthday gala at The Franklin Institute. Happy birthday, Ben!

The “Poor Richard’s Ale” program has been undertaken by the Brewers Association in cooperation The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, a non-profit organization established to mark the three-hundred-year anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth (1706-2006). Supported by a lead grant of $4 million from The Pew Charitable Trusts, five Philadelphia institutions – the American Philosophical Society, The Franklin Institute, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania - founded the Tercentenary in 2000 to reaffirm Franklin’s enduring legacy in his 300th birthday year. The Tercentenary’s projects will form the official national celebration for America’s first Founding Father to reach 300. The Tercentenary can be found online at

Based in Boulder, Colo., U.S.A., the Brewers Association (BA) is a not-for-profit trade and educational association for and craft brewers. The Brewers Association was established in 2005 by a merger of the Association of Brewers and the Brewers' Association of America. Visit the website: to learn more. The Brewers Association has an additional membership division of 9,000+ homebrewers: American Homebrewers Association. The association’s activities include events and publishing: World Beer Cup®; Great American Beer Festival®; NBWA/BREWERS Joint Legislative Conference, Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America®; National Homebrewers Conference; National Homebrew Competition; American Beer Month (July); Zymurgy magazine; The New Brewer magazine; and books on beer and brewing.