Ardent Craft Ales

Old Molasses Ale

Richmond, VA

(pdf version)

    Talk about a local brew!  Ardent Craft Ales of Richmond, VA has teamed up with the John Marshall House (a historic home in Richmond) as well as scientists from the University of Richmond to create their Old Molasses Ale, a tribute to both John Marshall and his cousin Mary Randolph, both of whom were from Richmond.
    John James Marshall (1755-1835) was born in Germantown, VA to Thomas Marshall and Mary Randolph Keith.  Marshall’s mother grew up in Virginia’s prominent Randolph family but was shunned after marrying a man they believed to be beneath her.  Because of this, Marshall grew up poor in a two-room cabin along with his parents and 14 siblings.
    Marshall was an upbeat and charismatic child who did well in school.  He joined the Continental Army after the Battles of Lexington and Concord (the first conflicts of the Revolutionary War) and fought in many battles over the following few years, ultimately earning the rank of lieutenant.  He then went on to study law at the College of William and Mary and in 1782 received his first political appointment in the Virginia House of Delegates.  Over the course of his lifetime, Marshall would put together an incredible career in politics and help the United States establish its government while it was still in the early stages of finding its true identity.
    Marshall was a strong supporter of the U.S. Constitution and was a major reason why Virginia voted to ratify the document.  He was greatly admired by John Adams and in 1797, as president, Adams appointed Marshall to negotiate with the French to help bring an end to attacks on American merchant ships.  Marshall then won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and in 1800 Adams made him Speaker of the House.  In 1801, Adams gave Marshall yet another appointment, this time as the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a position he would hold for 34 years, longer than anyone else in history.
    Among his many accomplishments, Marshall helped to establish the Supreme Court as one of the three major branches of government and was especially determined to make sure that it remained free from outside influences like political parties.  He also helped to establish tax laws, defined the roles of the federal and state governments and worked with multiple presidents and administrations to institute much of the framework that America’s government still follows today.  He believed that slavery was “evil” and was one of the first Americans to speak out against the practice.  Many people even consider Marshall to be a Founding Father.  He lies in rest at the Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond.

    The Mary Randolph that is remembered by Ardent Craft Ale’s Old Molasses Ale was not John Marshall’s mother but a younger woman, also of the same family, and the connections that surround this family are fascinating.  Mary Randolph’s father was orphaned and raised by Thomas Jefferson’s parents; her brother married Thomas Jefferson’s daughter; her mother was a descendent of Pocahontas and John Rolfe; and many people in her highly-influential family found roles in the Virginia militia and legislature.
    Mary Randolph (1762-1828) grew up very wealthy and attended the finest schools available, ultimately becoming a highly refined and very intelligent woman.  She married David Meade Randolph, her first cousin, and moved between Chesterfield County, VA, Richmond and Washington, D.C.  The two would have at least eight children (sources vary).
    While in Washington, D.C, Randolph wrote and published a cookbook entitled The Virginia House-Wife; Or, Methodical Cook.  First released in 1824, the book became extremely popular throughout the United States and is regarded by many as the first regional cookbook in American history.  It was 225-pages long and contained over 500 recipes but it gained particular attention as a remarkably insightful book that offered culinary ideas for using local produce and livestock as well as blending and preparing foods in ways that now seem to have been far ahead of their time.  Her recipes included traditional Southern meals but also Native American, European and even African cooking styles.  Readers could learn techniques for cooking okra, sweet potatoes, and biscuits and gravy as well as polenta, gazpacho and a number of different curries.  In addition, it provided recipes for making items like soap, cologne and starch and was truly a guide to managing an entire household, something that, ironically, given her extreme wealth, Randolph never actually did on her own.  The Virginia House-Wife is also credited with introducing healthy foods like fruits, nuts and vegetables into the American diet and improving the overall health of the nation.
        The book was a smashing hit and it was reprinted at least 19 times before the start of the Civil War.  Famous chefs from around the world still reference The Virginia House-Wife and even claim to find new inspiration in its pages.  Brewers will be particularly interested in her explanation of how to create a molasses-based beer, the same recipe on which Ardent Craft Ales based their Old Molasses Ale.  After her passing in 1828, Randolph became the first person to ever be buried at what is now Arlington National Cemetery. 

From the Brewer:  Old Molasses Ale was based on a recipe from John Marshall’s cousin, Mary Randolph, that she brewed in the late 1700s and featured a late addition of molasses in the boil.  This is an easy-drinking brown ale with low bitterness that features notes of molasses in both aroma and flavor.  ABV 4.6%, IBU 16
Tom Sullivan - Co-Founder & General Manager
Danny Fain - Packaging Lead & Historic Brewer



John Marshall


Mary Randolph