Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beer in the Middle Ages

This is the interior of an old inn in Bucharest, Romania.
It is called "Caru cu bere" which may translate
as "The Beer Wagon"
Photo by Baloo69 on Wikimedia Commons
 may translate as
Today, we think of beer mainly as a alcoholic beverage that’s consumed as a drink and it can get you in trouble if you don’t know when to stop. But back in the days people used beer for extended purposes and for other reasons then just entertaining around a football game.

Back in the days they even made beer soup for the entire family; parents, grandparents and kids were fed with beer soup.
Beer Soup Medieval Recipe (When beer was served for breakfast and beer bellies were well respected)  This is an article I wrote last summer for hubpages. It is a short history of beer mainly with the purpose of introducing an old beer soup recipe.

Today I want to speak about beer as a drink in the Middle Age.
Now, we may think that centuries ago the best drink of majority of people was water. And this is partially true. But what we do not know is that a better drink for our ancestors was beer. And it was quite common among people of all condition and ages.

One of the reasons why they consumed beer was that the water was often so impure that was posing a health hazard. In this regard, beer was far more healthier. The fermentation process of the grains destroys most of the harmful bacterias and other germs that may contaminate the water. So beer was a far more hygienic drink.

Beer was brewed by everyone. The earliest people we know today that they made this drink were Egyptians, some 2000 years B.C. It is said that Greeks and Romans liked wine, though they too knew how to make beer.

In the Middle Age, beer was made at home by housewives, at taverns for customers, in large commercial enterprises for mass selling. It was so popular that it became the drink of “common man” with the largest consumption in German Countries, Low Countries and England. It was even a method of payment for workers.

Beer also had its rules and regulation in cities and monasteries where monks got beer on strict ratios. In London, they had to put a limit on how much water you can draw from a well or spring. (Because they would dry out the wells). In fact, some historians have said that, for the countries mentioned above, there was one brewery for every one hundred people. In this condition no wonder why the municipality of London found them dangerous for the public water supplies.

Beer was not the only drink though. They also made wine, specially in Greece, Italy, Spain, France, and other countries around eastern and central Europe. With all these drinks, medieval people did not give up on water. But this may be my next subject.