Irish workers drank up to 14 pints of beer a day
Stonemasons in the 1560s were given extra ale when carrying out arduous labour
Beerwas as much of a staple of the 16th-century Irish diet as bread, according to new research by Dr Susan Flavin, a lecturer in early modern history at Anglia Ruskin University.
Dr Flavin found evidence that masons hewing stone at a Dublin quarry in 1565 were given an allowance of 12–14 pints of ale a day, when undertaking extreme labour. Elsewhere, household staff at Dublin Castle, as well as Elizabethan soldiers in Ireland, were found to have consumed up to eight pints of hopped ale a day.
Irish beers in the 16th century had a higher oat content than their English counterparts. This was influenced by the cold, wet climate and the unsettled economic situation but may also have related to cultural tastes. Oat beer was reportedly thicker and had a more bitter taste than those made predominantly with barley.
Says Flavin: “The beers were relatively high in malt content and may have had 400–500 calories per pint. My next step is to recreate them to test their alcohol and nutritional value”.
A 16th-century earthenware jug that may have been used to contain beer