Va. College Finds On-Campus Brewery —From 1700s

College of William and Mary stumbles across remains while widening sidewalk

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 31, 2014 11:34 AM CDT

(Newser) – Beer may or may not be proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, but the College of William and Mary thinks it has proof that college kids' deep and abiding love of all things related to hops and barley goes all the way back to the 1700s. The Virginia college, which dates to 1693 and counts itself as the nation's second oldest, was simply trying to widen a sidewalk when it stumbled upon the remains of what looks to be an 18th-century brewery, reports the AP. "It's a marvelous find," says a campus official. It's also a find that connects some dots: It's long been known that William and Mary had slaves who sold it hops they'd grown nearby, but not where the brewing was taking place.

The brewery site, which is about 18 feet by 20 feet, was hiding in plain sight, less than a foot underground near the school's original main building. Experts think it was constructed in the 1720s, and cannon debris indicates it met its end somewhere around the Revolutionary War. Archaeologists found a fire pit in the middle of the building—likely used to boil the water in the first part of the brewing process—and a faucet that probably functioned as a beer tap. Excavation wrapped on Friday, and scientists will be testing artifacts for pollen residue. "Hops are flowers, essentially, and they should have pollen," says the dig's lead archaeologist. "If they're around, we should get their signature and that'll help with the case." But, notes the AP, much like Bud Light-swilling modern day college students, those of yore weren't drinking very potent beer. "It was small beer, which is likely what they're brewing," says the archaeologist, meaning it was "second or third brew and less alcoholic, like an ale today." (Meanwhile, American monks are getting in on the brewing scene.)

The College of William & Mary went to widen a sidewalk and found the remnants of what looks to be an 18th-century on-campus brewery.
The College of William & Mary went to widen a sidewalk and found the remnants of what looks to be an 18th-century on-campus brewery.   (Shutterstock)
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