Tuesday, 14 March 2017

History: Beer and Loathing in 17th Century Ireland

If I had come across the first two lines in the following extract a few years ago I would have probably drolly commented that things had come full circle since this was first written in the early part of the 17th century. Thankfully a lot has changed in the last few years...*

'Scarce anywhere out of Dublin and some few other towns will you meet with any good beer or any reasonable bread for your money, only you may have some raw, muddy, unwholesome ale, made solely of oats, which they buy for 5d the quarter at the dearest and commonly for 4d, and yet they sell their ale pots dearer than here they do the best beer. Now if barley were sown there in plenty, seeing it is so fruitful and so profitable a grain, (for that land is as profitable for it as England) and that likewise, in head towns and parishes, thoroughfares and villages of note, malt house, which prove so beneficial to the owners, public and common brew houses were erected, and men experenced [sic] in those trades were there from hence employed, which here might be spared, it would prevent this general mischief, which, if any weighty exigent would call thither any number of British men, would soon cause them to perish by this poisonous drink and bread, and therefore a thing not to be continued.'

The editor dated the original document to 1623 and given the context and wording it was written in England. There are some interesting points raised, such as that beer was being made wholly with oats(?); that it was more expensive than the 'good' ale of England; that there was a huge opportunity for the growing of barley in Ireland, for the establishment of malthouse and breweries, and a need for good brewers; and that any British men that arrived over here would be poisoned by our beer...

I think it's safe to say that didn't happen!

* There are still many places in the country that lack any decent beer for those who want something a little different - or at the very least a choice. Dublin and the major cities still have the best of all worlds, a fact that many who live, and brew, in those places often fail to comprehend...

[Extract from 'Advertisements for Ireland', Edited and Transcribed by George O'Brien, Dublin 1923 - via the Local Studies Room in Carlow Library]

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