Georgia’s Brandy from Corn Stalks

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The Salzburgers in Georgia

In 1734, a group of Protestant Salzburgers, fleeing religious persecution in their home countries of Germany and Austria, sought refuge by establishing a settlement in the newly formed Colony of Georgia, established in 1732. Interestingly, historical records suggest that these Salzburger emigrants might have engaged in brandy distillation shortly after arriving in the Georgia colony, despite the region being designated as a dry colony.

The Salzburger’s Brandy

On Sunday, May 21, 1749, Samuel Urlsperger, a German Lutheran theologian, meticulously edited the letters and diaries of notable figures such as Johann Martin Boltzius, Israel Christian Gronau, and the Salzburger Emigrants who had settled in Georgia back in 1734. Within Urlsperger’s Detailed Reports on the Salzburger Emigrants Who Settled in America, he mentions a distinct brandy crafted from Indian corn stalks, a surprising and innovative feat:

I was amazed that one of our Salzburgers was able to distill a potent brandy from the stalks of Indian corn, not yet exceeding a height of two feet. This brandy resembled the kind made in the West Indies from sugar cane. People also utilized yellow and red plums in their stills to produce this liquor inexpensively, given their abundance of plums and peaches. It proved beneficial to them, especially during laborious work, as consuming only water in this environment could be detrimental.Detailed Reports on the Salzburger Emigrants Who Settled in America

Corn Stalks

Corn stalks, known primarily for their leaves and stems, surprisingly possess a substantial sugar content. With an average sugar content ranging from 8 to 20 brix, comparable to sugar cane, these stalks provided a unique opportunity for distillation. The resulting Salzburger Brandy derived from corn stalks stood as a distinctive distillate, likely one of the earliest of its kind produced from corn stalks (and plum) in North America. This brandy creation also underscored the Salzburgers’ dedication to their traditions, particularly the art of distilling plum, a signature distillate from their homeland.


Historical Recognition

It wasn’t until September 29, 1742, that the Board of Trustees of Georgia finally lifted prohibition laws. Remarkably, the  Salzburger emigrants, deeply ingrained in this craft, remain historically recognized as the earliest known brandy distillers in the state of Georgia, USA.

The Distilling Culture


Embark on a global journey, and you’ll find that cultures possess tales that harken back to their ancient beginnings of distillation, brewing, and winemaking.

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