Brewing at Monticello
Jefferson’s earliest designs for Monticello included spaces for brewing and the storage of beer. Initially, brewing of beer was supervised by Jefferson’s wife, Martha (1748-1782). In the years leading up to his retirement in 1809, Jefferson began researching the brewing process through correspondence with Michael Krafft, who dedicated his American Distiller to Jefferson. The most productive period of brewing at Monticello began during the war of 1812 when a British officer who was a master brewer was detained nearby in Albemarle County. He trained enslaved Peter Hemings (also one of Monticello’s principal cooks) in the arts of malting and brewing. According to Jefferson, Peter Hemings learned brewing “with entire success”.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, stoneware bottles were commonly used for beer storage as it was thought to be stronger than glass for containing fermented liquids. The bottles were sealed with corks, which were tied down to the rim with wire, and finally waxed. In the spring of 1814, Jefferson ordered several gross of both one and two-quart stoneware bottles from the Richard Randolph Pottery outside Richmond, and then wrote to him again before the fall season, “I am now engaged in brewing a year’s supply of malt strong beer, which however I have no chance of saving but by a supply of quart jugs from you…”
Our salt glazed stoneware bottle was based on archeological shards found at Monticello.