Road Trip

Beer and Chocolate the Williamsburg Way

Sunday, October 5, 2008; Page N06

WHERE: Williamsburg.

WHAT: Chocolate and beer lovers, things that go boom and spooky inmates.

HOW FAR: About 2 1/2 miles from start to finish, and about 150 miles from Washington.

When it comes to indulging, our forefathers knew best.

This fall, Colonial Williamsburg brings back its decadent programs, the Art and Mysteries of Brewing and the Secrets of the Chocolate Maker, which illustrate the Revolutionary-era techniques of turning hops and cocoa beans into sinful bliss. Experts demonstrate how chocolate and beer were made from scratch in the 18th century, using period utensils and stoves to roast, grind and boil. The chefs also discuss the history of beer and chocolate, emphasizing the important role these edibles played in trade and everyday life.

"We get a crowd," says Dennis Cotner, a baker and historical interpreter at the Governor's Palace Kitchen, one of the hundreds of original or reconstructed buildings in Colonial Williamsburg's 301-acre Historic Area. "They follow their noses."

Sadly, the smell of chocolate and home brew is the most you'll get to sample. (Fie upon the abominable 21st-century health codes!)

Unlike today's chocoholics, the Colonials generally imbibed their sweets as hot cocoa. However, for those who prefer to eat their chocolate, a number of stores in "towne" sell handmade "sticks" made from authentic Colonial recipes, which were heavy on the spices. For an ale or porter brewed with bygone tastes in mind, try a house beer at Josiah Chowning's Tavern, where the servers are dressed in period attire.

"Back then, people had beer for breakfast," says tavern manager Robert Walker. Mind you, the Colonials weren't drunks; during that era, beer was healthier than water.

And though tastes (and sanitation) have changed since the 1700s, beer's potency remains just as strong. "As we say around here," says Cotner, "beer preserves everything but secrets."

-- Scott Elder

Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area: 101A Visitor Center Dr., Williamsburg. 757-229-1000.

The Art and Mysteries of Brewing: Today, Oct. 25 and Nov. 2, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The Secrets of the Chocolate Maker: Tuesday, Nov. 4 and Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Demonstrations, performances and historical trade sites are included with admission, which is $37-$43, ages 6-17 $18-$21, 5 and younger free.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company