The first of nine beers to commemorate the 150th Civil War anniversary -- Antietam Ale -- is now on tap.
The concoction was derived from a number of beer recipes from the 1800s and researched by National Museum of Civil War Medicine researcher Terry Reimer.
Monocacy Brewing Co. in Frederick bottled the first batch Sept. 28 for distribution.
Antietam Ale is based on a recipe for an English-style ale once brewed by Brewer's Alley -- a style commonly referred to as an ordinary bitter, Brewer's Alley marketing manager Jim Bauckman said.
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine provided brewmaster Tom Flores with a variety of historic recipes that likely resemble the flavor profile of Antietam Ale, Bauckman said.
The strength is relatively low compared with that of modern beer renditions, Flores said, but making the brew still involves a lot of complexity. "The harmony of all the flavors, and making all the delicate intensity work, was important," Flores said. Antietam Ale has a slight hoppy presence that is quickly balanced by the flavor of specialty malts, Bauckman said.
"The medium body of this beer provides the taster with an opportunity to enjoy Antietam Ale without quickly filling up, and with its 3.8 percent low-alcohol content, can be enjoyed throughout a prolonged tasting session," Bauckman said.
The brew's low-alcohol content piqued the interest of brewmasters at Brewer's Alley in downtown Frederick, said David Price, National Museum of Civil War Medicine director of strategic initiatives and originator of the idea. "What I like about this museum is we not only educate about and interpret the Civil War, the story we tell is really about the lives of the individuals during that period, and a great part of that experience was camp life," Price said.
Actual fighting consisted of 45 days out of 1,500 days over four years, Price said. And as the saying goes, "war is an organized bore," so there was a lot of idle time.
A picture of soldiers and Gen. George Custer and empty beer bottles and pipes was used for the beer bottle emblem. "We're almost bottling a Civil War experience," Price said. "This is another example of our museum bringing history alive."
These words are from Antietam Ale's label:
"The Battle of Antietam changed the course of the Civil War, helped free over 4 million Americans and still ranks as the bloodiest single day in American history.
"It is fitting for Antietam Ale to be a classic English bitter. The battle caused England to abandon its plan for mediation between the North and South. As opposed to unwelcome mediation, this ale is well balanced and has a light hop and malty aroma. Ruby red in color and true to Civil War beers, it is lower in alcohol so more can be enjoyed."
Beer bottle collectors may have something special to add to their collection. For the second time in American history, the federal government has allowed the American flag to be on a beer bottle, Price said.
Federal regulators initially balked at the idea, Price said, but he made the case that the flag is part of the museum's logo and the project is about educating the public about an important part of American history, and they yielded.
Brewer's Alley co-owner Phil Bowers said he is excited about the idea. "It's a great way to celebrate the Civil War anniversary, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, and downtown Frederick," Bowers said, "and it's a great opportunity to keep pushing the great things we're doing in Frederick.
"And it's fun creating nine beers." The museum draws to downtown Frederick 40,000 visitors who spend only a couple of hours at the museum, then go elsewhere to shop and eat, Price said.
"Phil understood that if visitors come to the museum, they would go try a Civil War beer afterward," Price said. "And we knew that a Civil War beer would get our brand and our logo into people's hands who wouldn't ordinarily come to the museum, plus it gives us huge exposure." Bowers will donate $1 to the museum for every case of beer sold.
The beer is on tap at Brewer's Alley and can be bought where Brewer's Alley beers are sold. To reserve a case, email Price at email@example.com. Price has already received orders from as far away as California for cases of beer. "This will be a lot of fun. It will be huge," Price said.
The plan is to brew nine beers over two years -- one every three or four months, Price said.
The next beer, "Proclamation Porter," will be released in January to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The museum is planning several fundraisers associated with the release of the beer. These events will be held to promote the beers and, more important, raise money for the museum. The public may check the museum's Facebook page for updates.