Haymaker's Beer

Tuesday 10 July 2018

We have had such a fantastically warm and sun drenched summer thus far, which in some ways has been quite fantastic for farmers growing silage for their animals Its perhaps a bit tenuous for other crops, but for getting in the hay its been a really great year thus far.  In fact our own house garden is looking a bit like dry hay fields at the moment! Dry, wheat coloured and not our usual verdant green.


 “Oh our hay it is mown and our corn it is reaped, 
our barns are full and we’ve garnered the seed…”

I would wager that in these modern times, making hay is not quite as much of a labor as it was in olden times. Back then it would have required a lot of workers and helpers, and taken days of hot and dusty work, with most of the hay having to be cut by scythes.  I saw a bit of that in the series Larkrise to Candleford, in one episode . . .  with the  the whole town participating in the harvesting of the hay/corn/wheat. 

Even in our time it is still a hot and dusty work.  This recipe I am showing you today would have been a traditional drink that would have been served up ice cold to the workers as a means of refreshment in the field.

There is actually no real "Beer" involved.  Not many farmers would have wanted to risk the bringing in of their hay by serving actual "Beer" to their men . . .  nor could they afford the expense of quenching the thirsts of their hot and tired workers by serving them real "Beer."  Instead, it is a drink which is meant to be thirst quenching without dulling the senses.

It actually does resemble a dark ale in looks, but that is where any true resemblance to beer stops.  It might have faint echoes in flavour to the real thing, but not being a beer drinker myself, I cannot actually say this for sure!

It has a very faint malty flavour . . .  probably from the use of molasses in this mixture, which also gives it it's dark colour . . .

More sweetness comes in the form of granulated sugar . . .  but again there is a hint of sour from the use of white vinegar.  Todd, who has been an ale-drinker in days gone past, says it is quite a pleasant drink.  This is also a nice whiff of ginger, which is known to be refreshing!

Having said that I don't think it is ever going to overtake homemade lemonade in the scheme of popularity when it comes to thirst quenching drinks in our house!  Then again, we are not out working in the fields and getting all hot and dusty!!

It is a recipe I have adapted from a very old paper-back recipe book I have had in my library for many years called The Farmer's Daughter Cookbook, by Kandy Norton Henley.  In its day, it was called a delectable treasury of nostalgic home cooking!

Published in 1971,  I have had this book for nigh on to 47 years now. (Oh that does make me feel old!)  This is a recipe that I have always been curious about, and with the hot weather we have been experiencing, I decided to finally give it a try! (Better late than never!)

Todd quite likes it and has really enjoyed it after mowing the lawn, maybe not  as hearty a chore as bringing in the hay crop, but still quite sweat inducing! 

I have a huge jar of it in the refrigerator,  and I dare say he will be enjoying it  until we run out of hot weather.  He normally isn't much of a cold drink lover (I wear that crown), but when it is hot he does enjoy something colder!

*Haymaker's Beer*
Makes a generous
4 litres/1 gallon

This thirst-quenching refreshing drink would have been a treat on a hot day to the farm worker's who used to help the farmer's get their hay crop in. 

4 litres water (16 cups)
385g sugar (2 cups)
240ml molasses (1 cup)
240ml white vinegar (1 cup)
1 to 2 tsp ground ginger 

Mix all of the ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved.  Chill in the refrigerator until very cold.  In the hayfield, this is every man's drink. 

Needless to say I did not make a whole gallon of this drink.  I cut the recipe down by about 3/4, only making about 1 litre of it.  I don't have a whole haying crew to please, after all, and I mostly wanted to make it more out of curiosity than for any other reason.  Having said that, however  . . .  I am glad that I did!  Here's mud in your eye! 


  1. Sounds interesting...we do drink beer and wine though..after a certain hour;) I like fizzy water w/ a splash of Dasani drops on ice..or flavoured setlzers during the day.I did indulge in a Diet Root beer at A & W w/ Noah:) A LARGE;)

    1. I will have to look up Dasani drops Monique! I am intrugued! Ohhh A&W rootbeer in a frosty mug! It is so good! Xo

  2. Looks fascinating! My Mom used to give me Molasses in milk as a child - for the iron. I would guess this has the same effect. I think I will try it and use ginger Syrup instead of the ground ginger?

    1. I think Ginger Syrup would be a fabulous addition! Let me know how you get on! Xo


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