Colonial Williamsburg® The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's Official History and Citizenship Website

Page content
Reset text sizeResize text larger

March 3, 2009

CW's chocolate and brewing programs celebrate the history of these guilty pleasures

Indulge in the creation of two delectable treats from the colonial world this spring, as Colonial Williamsburg explores historic chocolate and brewing. Chocolate is a luscious ingredient for many colonial and modern dishes. Beer has been refreshing Virginia for centuries. Colonial Williamsburg offers two seasonal programs in the Historic Area highlighting the 18th-century methods for producing and consuming these guilty pleasures.

“The Secrets of the Chocolate Maker” program allows guests to learn how raw cocoa beans are processed into chocolate and its uses in 18th-century cooking. The program is presented by Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways journeymen in the historic Governor’s Palace Kitchen, using reproduction period kitchen tools. The process of creating the colonial chocolate begins by roasting Venezuelan cocoa beans, shelling them and crushing them in a large mixing bowl. Using a heated grinding stone and an iron rolling pin, the beans are ground into a liquid and mixed with sugar and spices. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and hot chilies are added to the succulent liquid—adding bold, exotic flavors to the chocolate. Delving into the transition from cacao seeds to formed chocolate, guests discover every step of making the delicious treat from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, April 7, May 5 and June 2.

Chocolate was made primarily to be served as a hot beverage, the drink of choice to pair with breakfast. Chocolate, along with coffee and tea, was considered a “necessity” in the colonies and could be found everywhere in the 18th century. The first recorded mention of chocolate in Williamsburg dates to the first decade of the 18th century, when College of William and Mary President James Blair noted serving hot chocolate to visiting Burgesses.

In 2001, Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways staff premiered a program called “Secrets of the Chocolate Maker” in the Governor’s Palace kitchen. It was the first regularly scheduled historic chocolate making program in North America using original recipes and equipment. Members of the Foodways staff are now internationally recognized authorities on historic chocolate in North America. Over the years, this program has been presented in magazines, the Food Network, colleges, museums and even the National Academy of Sciences.

Mars Incorporated and Colonial Williamsburg have partnered with the other museums to create the Mars American Heritage line of chocolate products available at Colonial Williamsburg’s Craft House, Tarpley’s Store, Greenhow Store, Raleigh Tavern Bakery and WILLIAMSBURG Revolutions in Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitor Center. American Heritage Chocolate has been designed and developed as closely as possible to 18th-century chocolates eaten and consumed as a drink for pleasure and used by the armies as rations. The American Heritage line includes an authentic chocolate drink mix, chocolate sticks and chocolate bars and is also sold at Historic Deerfield, Fort Ticonderoga, Mount Vernon, Monticello and Fortress Louisbourg. It meets 21st-century manufacturing standards. Deborah and Forrest Mars preside over the advisory board of the Colonial Chocolate Society, an informal organization made up of representatives from Mars Incorporated, University of California-Davis, Colonial Williamsburg and other living history museums—all interested in the research, interpretation and presentation of historical chocolate making.

“The Art and Mysteries of Brewing” demonstration discovers the process of brewing beer as it was practiced in the 18th century. Guests may explore the brewing of beer in the Governor’s Palace Scullery from 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, April 18, May 3 and 30.

The household task of brewing beer was essential for colonial citizens, who drank beer as an everyday beverage with their meals because beer was often less contaminated than water. The governor of colonial Virginia was known to provide beer as part of his servants’ and slaves’ daily rations or even as a portion of their wages. As scholars at the College of William and Mary, some of America’s founding fathers may even have enjoyed the colonial beer made commercially on the campus adjacent to Colonial Williamsburg.

The Colonial Williamsburg Historic Foodways journeymen demonstrate popular 18th-century beer recipes during the spring season’s “The Art and Mysteries of Brewing” program. The everyday beer for many people in 18th-century colonial Williamsburg was known as “small beer.” This small beer was made by boiling molasses, hops and wheat bran, straining out the mixture, and later adding yeast for the fermenting process. Many colonial Virginia brewers substituted the rare malted barley grain traditionally used in beers for pumpkin, molasses, spruce and pine in their recipes. The 18th-century beer often contained high levels of hops, closely relating the colonial brew to today’s bitter flavored Indian pale ales. A porter beer, described as a dark, sweet ale, was another very popular beverage in the 18th century. Porters contain a mixture of burnt molasses and sugar to ensure their dark color, along with licorice root added for its distinct flavor.

A Colonial Williamsburg admission pass or a Good Neighbor card provides access to enjoy these programs.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution guests interact with history through “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121