Work­ers in 16th cen­tury Ire­land on daily ra­tion of 14 pints of ale

Irish Daily Mirror - - NEWS - BY PAT FLANA­GAN

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.


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