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Archive Dive: Butts's Prohibition Brew

Archive Dive: Butts's Prohibition Brew

William Glackens, Self-Portrait (detail), 1908

Philadelphia claims to be the best beer-drinking city in America, and who am I to argue? We celebrate that every year during Philly Beer week, which curiously lasts 10 days. Although Philadelphia is now a great place to imbibe, and has a storied brewing and beer-drinking past, it has had some dark days as well. Prohibition went into effect in January 1920, when Congress decided that the American people could no longer make or drink alcohol. There is a very good Prohibition exhibition touring the country that will tell you all about it, you may have caught it while it was at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

During Prohibition a lot of folks took matters into their own hands and brewed their own beer. Painter and lifelong friend of Albert Barnes, William Glackens was one of them. On May 13, 1920, Dr. Barnes got a letter from Glackens (whom Barnes called Butts) with instructions to make “the brew.” In honor of Philly Beer Week, we proudly present this Prohibition-era homebrew recipe from the Barnes Foundation archives.

Letter from Glackens


Glackens beer recipe page 1

Glackens beer recipe page 2

Glackens beer recipe page 3

The instructions seem sound enough; as there are no details on type of malt extract or hops, there’s room for interpretation. Homebrewers out there, give it a try and let us know how it goes.

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