March 2016: Mary Hardy with the maltsters and brewers in the USA

Mary Hardy has caught the imagination of a professional maltster in Massachusetts. Andrea Stanley has been studying the diary for many months as part of her mission to bring current practice into harmony with the craft of the past: ‘to bring the malthouse back’.

Re-enactments in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Mary Hardy in Virginia

Andrea Stanley (centre, in mob cap) as Mary Hardy following a demonstration of 18th-century brewing routines. Beside her is John Mallett in 17th-century costume [photo Ed Bronson 2016]

On 19 March 2016 Andrea Stanley teamed up with John Mallett, director of operations at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to re-enact past methods of brewing. She played Mary Hardy, while John played his ancestor Dionisis Coffin, a 17th-century brewer in Massachusetts Bay Colony. Ron Pattison was the narrator.

The event took place as part of a three-day conference Ales through the Ages at Colonial Williamsburg. They were photographed afterwards in costume by Ed Bronson.

Although Andrea writes that the re-enactment was great fun it had a serious purpose: commercial malting and brewing today can learn much from the practitioners of the past. The weekend included talks on the history of beer by some of the leading internationally known experts and scholars, including Britain’s Martyn Cornell.

The uses of the diaries

The diaries of Mary Hardy and Henry Raven have opened up many new lines of thought for Andrea, who is constantly on the lookout for ways to understand and improve her craft.

Along with her husband she runs Valley Malt in Hadley, Massachusetts. Their malt, made from local barley, supplies brewers and distillers in New England and New York.

For Ales through the Ages she explained that as President of the Craft Maltsters Guild she helps to support the growth of craft malt in the United States. ‘In her spare time’, she writes, ‘she searches for anything she can read about the history of barley and malt. She has been known to corner people in breweries, barley fields and grain elevators talking for hours about malt.’

In her e-mails to Margaret Bird she ranges from the imposition of the malt duty in 18th-century England to the visits of the excise officers to the Hardys: a real enthusiast.

On her next visit to England she plans to visit Coltishall and Letheringsett, the villages where Mary Hardy wrote her diary.