Guides and Materials About Mr. Franklin
An Introduction
Ben Across the Curriculum
Essay Contest
Essay Contest
The Recipe for Poor Richard’s Ale is No Secret
November 22, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
As brewers throughout the United States plan to celebrate the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin by brewing a batch of Poor Richard’s Ale, they turn to a recipe developed especially for the occasion. In October 2005, a competition conducted during the Great American Beer Festival in Denver evaluated carefully considered recipes and sample beers to select the one most suited for toasting Benjamin Franklin. Since then, the recipe has been distributed to brewers nationwide for production.

The judges in the competition included three award winning brewers, a journalist who writes about beer and a representative of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary. As the winner, they selected a recipe submitted by Tony Simmons, of Brick Oven Brewing Co in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. His recipe included two distinctive ingredients: molasses and corn. The judges concluded that both were common ingredients in ale during colonial times and that each would have helped to reduce the colonists’ dependence on imported British ingredients—a move that would have surely pleased Franklin.

A veteran homebrewer in the process of starting a commercial brewery, Simmons himself embodies Franklin’s entrepreneurial spirit. He has started his own advertising and marketing companies in the past and since 1999 has owned a brewing supply business in his hometown of Pagosa Springs, CO. Not long after starting that business he began to work on opening his own brewery—a dream which he expects to make real in 2006.

Simmons consulted both modern and historical brewing texts in developing his recipe. Every aspect of the beer from the ingredients to the balance of malt and hops was based upon what we now know about brewing in Franklin’s time. “It was a fascinating project,” says Simmons. “I got to combine historical information with practical thinking about beer production and consider how consumers might react to various ingredients.”

The consumer part of the equation caused Simmons to steer away from some historical ingredients like parsnips and spruce which hold little appeal today. Other ingredients, like molasses, he embraced in a practical way. “I specified medium or brown molasses for this beer,” says Simmons. “Blackstrap molasses is simply too assertive.”

Along the way, he also use his formal training in brewing to translate some vague phrases into pragmatic guidance for modern brewers. In this way, he transformed eighteenth century directions to wait until “you can see your reflection in the [boiled] water” into a specific temperature for processing the grains.

The judges who picked Simmons’ entry over others included three award winning brewers from different parts of the country:

Steve Bradt, Brewmaster at Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, Kansas 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.

Both Harris and Mallett are past winners of the Brewers Association’s Russell Scherer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing—and exclusive award given to one brewer each year. Both also believe Franklin to be a distant relative in their family tree.

The other judges were:

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

William Brand, Oakland Tribune Staff Writer who writes “What's On Tap,” a beer and cider column in the Oakland Tribune.

In addition to recruiting small commercial brewers around the country to brew the celebratory beer, the Brewers Association has also made the recipe available to its 9,000 homebrewer members as well. “We expect there will be some interesting comparisons going on in January when homebrewed and pro-brewed versions of the recipe get tasted side-by-side,” said Daniels.

To see the full text of Simmons’ recipe along with his discussion of its rationale see or contact the brewers association.

The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary is a private, non-profit alliance established to mark the three-hundred-year anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth (1706-2006) with a celebration dedicated to educating the public about Franklin’s enduring legacy and inspiring renewed appreciation of the values he embodied. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary represents a consortium created in 2000 by the American Philosophical Society, The Franklin Institute, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the University of Pennsylvania. The consortium is supported by a $4 million gift to the nation from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Tercentenary’s projects will form the official national celebration for America’s first founding father to reach 300. For further information, see

Based in Boulder, Colo., U.S.A., the Brewers Association (BA) is a not-for-profit trade and educational association for 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.