Workers in 16th century Ireland on daily ration of 14 pints of ale
was such an important dietary staple in early modern Ireland some workers were given a daily allowance of 14 pints, research has shown. Evidence from household accounts, soldiers’ rations and port books from the 16th century show ale was viewed as a vital source of calories and nutrition. Records from January 1565 reveal stonemasons working at a quarry in Clontarf, Dublin, were provided with an allowance of 14 pints of ale per day by the proctor of Christ Church Cathedral. And documents from Dublin Castle show the household staff consumed 264,000 pints of beer in 1590, an average of up to eight pints each per day, similar to consumption in England at the time. Dr Susan Flavin, Lecturer in Early Modern History at Anglia Ruskin University, calculated that 16th century beer had a high calorific value, providing between 400-500 calories per pint compared to 180-200 calories for modern bitter. Beers typically had a high oat content as barley proved difficult to grow in Ireland’s wet climate and most would have been fairly strong. Dr Flavin said: “It has been estimated most beer at this time would have had an alcohol strength of between 7% and 10%.
“Domestic brewing was seen as the role of the housewife and there are records of women and children joining labourers to drink together at the end of the working day. “At Dublin Castle there are even records of ‘drinkings’ which took place in the main entertaining area of the castle and were ladies-only events.” Dr Flavin will present her findings at the Institute of Historical Research’s Food Research Seminar at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She next hopes to recreate the bitter, thick and creamy oat-based ales from the original recipes and examine their nutritional value.
Strong beer WHAT THE PROCTOR ORDERED