European Beer, 1634

Oscar A. Mendelsohn’s Drinking With Pepys (1963) is a compendium of everything Pepys wrote about alcoholic drinks, including beer and ale. As a bonus feature, Mendelsohn also includes a long letter by a contemporary of Pepys, James Howell, to Lord Cliff. Here are our favourite bits.

In this Island the old drink was Ale, noble Ale, than which, as I heard a great Forreign Doctor affirm, that there is no Liquor that more encreaseth the radical Moysture, and preserves the natural Heat, which are the two Pillars that support the Life of Man, but since Beer hath hop’d in amongst us, Ale is thought to be much adulterated, and nothing so good as Sir John Old-Castle, and Smugg the Smith was us’d to drink…

In the Seventeen Provinces hard by, and all by low Germany, Beer is the common natural Drink, and nothing else, so it is in Westfalia, and all the lower Circuit of Saxony, in Denmark, Swethland and Norway; The Prusse has a Beer as yellow as Gold made of wheat, and it inebriates as soon as Sack. In some parts of Germany they use to spice their Beer, which will keep many years; so that at some Weddings there will be a But of Beer drunk out, as old as the Bride.

His source is a 1624 edition of The Familar Letters of James Howells, e-texts of which are available online, though we’re struggling to find this particular letter.

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