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September 15, 2009

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

Indulge in the creation of two delectable treats from the colonial world as Colonial Williamsburg explores historic brewing and chocolate making. Colonial Williamsburg offers two seasonal programs in the Historic Area highlighting the 18th-century methods for producing and consuming these guilty pleasures.

“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. to 3:15 p.m. on Sundays, Sept. 20 and Oct. 18 and Saturdays, Oct. 10 and Nov. 21.

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 brewers substituted molasses, corn stalks or pumpkins for the more expensive malted barley traditionally used to make beer. The 18th-century beer often contained high levels of hops, closely relating the colonial brew to today’s bitter flavored India pale ales. If hops were not available or too expensive, they would use spruce or pine tips instead. A porter beer, described as a dark, strong 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.

“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. Delving into the transition from cacao seeds to formed chocolate, guests discover every step of making the delicious treat from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Tuesdays, Oct. 6, Nov. 3 and Dec. 1.

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

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 made note of serving hot chocolate to visiting Burgesses.

Since 2004, Colonial Williamsburg has been part 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. Mars Incorporated and Colonial Williamsburg have partnered with 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.

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. 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