Re: Medieval Drinking Habits

From: Edward Moon (
Date: Tue 20 May 1997 - 02:12:34 EEST

I don't know about wine, but the alcohol strength of beer varied
considerably depending on when it was made and also for what purpose.

For example:

Small beer - Usually made from the 2nd or 3rd sparges (rinses) of the
mashed grain. Very low alcohol percentage (approx 2% - 3%) and meant to be
drunk within a week. Since water was often of doubtful quality, small beer
was safe to drink since the water used to make beer was boiled during the
process. Was supposed to be fairly vile in taste.

Poinesbock (sp?) - A "bock" style of beer made by German monks to drink
during a month long fast (Lent?). Supposed to be very sweet and may have
been cloudy due to starch . Moderate alcohol percentage (approx 3% - 4%).
The beer was probably only good for about 6 to 8 weeks before bacterial &
yeast infections soured the beer.

Scottish Ale (aka Wee Heavy) - A dark, fairly heavy beer with a high
alcohol content. The high alcohol content allowed shipping the beer to far
away British colonies without spoilage. Alcohol content varied wildly
depending on cost of materials and tax rate on alcohol (percentage may have
around 5% - 9%).

Finally, the 5 litre amount of wine you quote wasn't drunk in one sitting!
The monk was probably only mildly enebriated throughout the day.

>From: (Martin Dick)
>Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 15:44:09 +1000
>Subject: Medieval Drinking Habits
>In relation to the drinking habits of Medieval folk,
>one of the most frightening figures I heard while visiting
>an old monastery on the Rhine, was that the monks had a daily
>allowance of 5 litres of wine, (the nuns only got 3 litres).
>Now while Rhine Riesling is a very delicious drop, 5 litres
>would leave me reeling. The funniest part was the metal guides
>on the door, which narrowed down to the keyhole, so that the
>brothers entering the monastery would find it easy to get the
>key into the keyhole.
>Makes the regular drunken sprees our Orlanthi go on, seem
>quite tame actually.


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