WWJD: What Would Jackson Drink?

This article is part of a running series of historical event/ beer pairings.

Andrew Jackson: America’s favorite president. OK, so more accurately, he was a highly controversial, as-much-hated-as-venerated Tennessean who happened to become president. I find him a more nuanced, tragic character; a victim of his own demons. Regardless, he was portrayed as a ruffian in the truest fashion—a man who fancied himself the apex of unfancy. Andrew Jackson the man and Andrew Jackson the legend may have been two different things. Nonetheless, his supposed near-illiteracy and his ballsy victory against Charles Dickinson in an 1806 duel speak to his undeniable cultural prominence as one of history’s most perplexing characters.

While scholars continue to debate the validity, morality and historiography of Jackson’s actions, one true question stands among the rest: what would Jackson drink? Living much of his life in the whiskey-rich frontier of Tennessee, one would obviously argue his drinking penchants would lean bourbon. Probably true but, sorry folks, this is a beer article.

One friend to whom I posed this WWJD question suggested he would drink Coors or Budweiser, given his desire to appear as an everyman. However, I think it goes even further than that. Andrew Jackson would mostly drink homebrew or beer from brand-new breweries that have yet to gain popularity. To me, homebrewing epitomizes the nuance of the Andrew Jackson mystique—like his historical actions, not every homebrew is a success and, indeed, some are awful enough to be labeled offensive. Use the following guide to perfectly pair local Colorado beers with Jackson’s history.

Say What?

Jackson’s supposed illiteracy was a hot topic amongst his supporters and detractors alike.  To those who loved him, his disdain for American grammatical law and lack of consistent spelling showed the sort of salt-of-the-earth quality very much welcome against the perceived pretentiousness of blue-blooded academic John Quincy Adams (his chief political rival). To his critics who saw him as a dangerous bumpkin, this illiteracy was seen as a horrifying example of his overall lack of credentials to run a growingly powerful nation.

Recommended Pairing: I would pair Andrew Jackson’s illiteracy with any beer from the almost-established brewery Denver Beer Co. That isn’t to say Denver Beer Co. will make beers in the same quality that an illiterate man composes sentences. Rather, it seems these guys want to let the beer speak for itself, rather than get caught up in the branding fluff that can sometimes stand in the way. Indeed, I would imagine Jackson wanted to let the content of his letters speak for itself rather than be caught up with the pesky details of grammar and spelling. There is a lot of buzz surrounding the brewery and thirsty beer denizens anxiously await a new bevy of beers to try this summer. In true Jackson style, Denver Beer Co doesn’t have an active website yet, but you can see a nice placeholder at www.denverbeerco.com.

Runner Up: Jackson’s illiteracy would also pair well with local homebrew outfit and soon-to-be-brewery Mad Haven’s Rye Dry Stout. Mad Haven’s penchant for brewing traditional beers with non-traditional twists fits well with Jackson’s style of traditional writing in a non-traditional style.

Put ‘Em Up

The events that led up to the May 30th, 1806 duel between Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson sound like they’re from a bad harlequin novel. Regardless of whether you see Jackson as a frontier hero everyman or an Indian-murdering villain, his obsession with honor and his devotion to his own personal honor code are undeniable. When rumors swirled that Rachel, his new wife, was, in fact, still married to her ex-husband and was committing bigamy by marrying Jackson, Old Hickory challenged rumor-swirler Charles Dickinson to a duel to defend his wife’s honor. They agreed to meet at Red River in Logan, Kentucky to settle the beef by pistol.

Many accounts of the event note that Jackson fully intended to die at Red River, given Dickinson’s reputation as a world-class marksman. He allowed Dickinson to take the first shot, assuming that he would be instantly shot through the heart. However, although the bullet entered his chest and cracked two ribs, it missed his heart. Being an undeniable badass, Jackson steadied his aim and shot Dickinson in the groin, which would prove to be fatal. Jackson as a cultural memory invokes an image of a grittier version of the Dos Equis Guy. I don’t always shoot my rivals straight in the junk for calling my wife a whore, but when I do…

Recommended Pairings: I would pair Jackson’s epic victory at Red River with any beer from the newly-established Renegade Brewing in the Santa Fe Arts District. Their slogan, according to their website is, “Offensively Delicious.” This seems an apt quip for a man dedicated to his own code, a man to whom offense against his honor (or the honor of those he loved) was taken deadly seriously. For a particularly punny pairing, choose their Hit Me red ale.

Runner Up: I would also recommend Great Divide’s Old Ruffian Barley Wine to pair. C’mon, the name is perfect. Who more embodies the idea of an old ruffian than a hardened swamp-warring, illiterate, pistol-dueling frontiersman? Andrew Jackson certainly isn’t celebrated by all. At over 10% ABV and 90 IBUs, Old Ruffian isn’t, either.

Whether you love him or hate him, at least you know you have plenty of local beer options when it comes to Jackson-themed drinking.

About Hanna Laney

Hanna Laney is that middle space in the Venn diagram between grammarian, beer geek and miniature horse aficionado. You can find her tweeting and Facebook-ing for Great Divide Brewing Company and staying around after hours to enjoy a couple cold ones. She will happily discuss picayune details related to the Portland Trail Blazers franchise with anyone silly enough to listen.

  • Jess Hunter

    I wish history class was like this. I would’ve loved it so much more. Then again, that would be underaged drinking.

    So, thanks for the re-history lesson.

  • Kevin Burke

    Mr. Jackson would have definitely been found drinking copious amounts of moonshine from a mason jar. After breakfast, he would have switched to Madeira, probably Sercial, as it would have been most popular in the South Eastern US.

  • taylor

    i will never forgive jackson for the petticoat affair, how dare you glorify his name!

    i, with full support of the alternative gonzaga alumni association i just made up, declare you officially bani-shed from membership in our esteemed organization or access to any of the future-but-as-of-yet-unconfirmed privileges of membership therein. a most humble apology for this most serious of crimes may be considered if a case of the finest colorado ales and lagers doth grace my residence in the coming weeks.