In 1815, Jefferson writes in a letter to Joseph Coppinger (himself a brewer): “I am lately become a brewer for family use, having had the benefit of instruction to one of my people by an English brewer of the first order.”
Large-scale brewing began with the appearance of a British brewer detained in Albemarle County during the War of 1812. Captain Joseph Miller improved upon the quality and quantity of Monticello beer, introducing ale, stronger beer suited to storage. While at Monticello, Joseph Miller trained the enslaved Peter Hemings in the arts of malting and brewing. Hemings – a brother of Sally – carried on the brewing operations, making 100 gallons of ale every spring and fall.
Jefferson wrote in 1821 that he had “no receipt for brewing,” doubting “if the operations of malting and brewing could be successfully performed from a receipt.” Using ingredients grown on the Monticello plantation, Jefferson’s brews varied based on the grains that were available at any given time, including barley, and larger quantities of corn and wheat. At Monticello, about three-quarters of a pound of hops were used for every bushel of malt.