Famous Ben Franklin Beer Quote is a Brewing Industry White Lie, Says Beer Historian

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Founding father preferred the runnings of the noble grape rather than beer

I challenge anyone to find the documented attribution of Franklin making this beery statement

As bookstores make ready for the release of "Beer & Food: An American History" (Jefferson Press, ISBN-10: 0977808610, ISBN-13: 978-0977808618, $24.95) by nationally recognized beer and brewing expert Bob Skilnik, the author thinks it's time to address one of the biggest historical fallacies concerning Ben Franklin. Beer-themed web sites, brewing organizations and even "beer writers" are fond of quoting the Founding Father and his love of beer. A web search of the supposed Franklin quote, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy," yields almost 100,000 hits, all with vague attributions that Franklin did indeed utter the quote or penned it in his long-running pamphlets of sound advice and witticisms known as "Poor Richard's Almanack."

"I challenge anyone to find the documented attribution of Franklin making this beery statement," says the author and researcher. "My research indicates that Franklin did make a similar quote in a letter to his friend, French economist Andre Morellet, around 1779 while living in France. In the letter, Ben Franklin swoons over the pressings from the noble grape, even mentioning its starring role at the Wedding at Cana, 'Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy,' says Franklin, and after reading the entire letter, one might argue that he had consumed more than enough French wine while writing his friend Morellet about its qualities."

The tweaking of Franklin's passage about rain from the heavens and its eventual conversion into wine probably took place during the post-Repeal era when the U.S. brewing industry was in a heated battle with liquor manufacturers for the taste buds and dollars of a generation of drinkers who had turned towards ardent spirits during National Prohibition. As part of their marketing plan to groom a bigger beer-drinking audience, the United States Brewers Association began a decades-long advertising campaign that was quick to associate beer and beer drinking with our Founding Fathers, early American history and patriotism.

"With Benjamin Franklin's 301st birthday coming up on January 17, I hope I can set the record straight about this little white lie. I have no doubt that ole Ben enjoyed a tankard or two of beer with friends and associates, but this beer quote is inaccurate. Imagine if a dairy association had hijacked the original Franklin quote years ago and substituted the word 'milk' instead."

More information about the Franklin quote and Beer & Food: An American History can be found at http://www.beerinfood.com

About the Author

Bob Skilnik is an alumnus of Chicago's Siebel Institute of Technology -- the oldest school of brewing technology in the U.S. -- where he earned a degree in brewing technology. He is the former associate editor for the American Breweriana Journal, has written for the Chicago Tribune's Good Eating food section, trade journals, magazines and newspapers. He has appeared on ABC's "The View," the Fox News Channel, ESPN2, and Chicago's WTTW. "Beer & Food: An American History" is his sixth book.


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