How Georgia’s first brewery was born
By Rebecca Burns
In March 1733, merchant Samuel Eveleigh journeyed from Charleston (then Charles Town) to the fledgling colony of Georgia and was impressed by residents’ temperance under the leadership of James Oglethorpe. “I never saw one of his people drunk,” wrote Eveleigh.
Indeed, when English trustees founded Georgia, they issued a prohibition against alcohol. But the founders were specifically concerned with “that cursed evil rum.” Beer, thanks to the brewing process, was actually safer to drink than coastal Georgia’s brackish water. The first settlers were deposited on the future site of Savannah with “ten tuns,” or casks, of beer.
While the British brew staved off dysentery and other maladies, it suffered from the long journey overseas and from storage in the Southern heat. When William Horton, Oglethorpe’s compatriot, was deeded Jekyll Island, he set to work solving the problem, planting barley, rye, and hops and ordering distilling equipment, including a pot of “Great Copper.”
Visitors to Jekyll in 1745 recorded that “after dinner Horton took us out about a mile to see a field of barley which is an uncommon thing in this colony.” By the following year, he possessed “a very Large Barnfull of Barley, not inferior to ye Barley in England.”
Horton’s enterprise was the first recorded brewery in the South. Its exact location is unknown. Popular belief once held that a ruined tabby structure dating to Horton’s era was the brew house, and although archaeological excavations have since suggested otherwise, the structure is still commonly known as “the Brewery.”