Medieval Drink -
Ale and Beer
Under the Romans, the real beer, was made with barley; but, at a later
period, all sorts of grain was indiscriminately used; and it was only
towards the end of the sixteenth century that the flower or seed of hops
to the oats or barley was added. Another sort of beer was known during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages, which was called godale. This name was derived from the
two German words god and ael, which mean "good beer" and was of a
stronger description than the ordinary beer. When, on the return from
the Crusades, the use of spice had become the fashion, beverages as well
as the food were loaded with spice, including beer. Allspice, juniper,
resin, apples, bread-crumbs, sage, lavender, gentian, cinnamon, and
laurel were each thrown into it. The object of these various mixtures
was naturally to obtain high-flavoured beers. Other beers, called 'Small
Beer' were sweetened simply with honey, or scented with ambergris or
Medieval Drink -
Cider (in Latin sicera) and perry can also both claim a very ancient
origin. Cider is a drink made of apples sometimes this was made by
pouring water on apples, and steeping them, so as to extract a sort of
half-sour, half-sweet drink.
Medieval Drink - Wine
The English experimented with mixing
resin with their wines to preserve them and prevent them from turning
sour, as the temperature of their country was not warm enough thoroughly
to ripen the grape. It was not very successful and most wines were
imported. In 1372, a merchant fleet of two hundred came from London to
Bordeaux for wine. In the 13th century, in the "Battle of Wines"
we find those of Aquila, Spain, and, above all, those of Cyprus, spoken
of in high terms. A century later, Eustace Deschamps praised the Rhine
wines, and those of Greece, Malmsey, and Grenache. In an edict of
Charles VI. mention is also made of the muscatel, rosette, and the wine
of Lieppe. Generally, the Malmsey was an artificial preparation, which
had neither the colour nor taste of the Cyprian wine. Malmsey wine was
made with water, honey, clary juice, beer grounds, and brandy. At first
the same name was used for the natural wine, mulled and spiced, which
was produced in the island of Madeira from the grapes which the
Portuguese brought there from Cyprus in 1420.
Many wines were made with infusions of wormwood, myrtle, hyssop,
rosemary which were mixed with sweetened wine and flavoured with honey.
The most celebrated of these beverages bore the pretentious name of
"nectar;" those composed of spices, Asiatic aromatics, and honey, were
generally called "white wine".
Medieval Drink - Fruit Wine
The name of wine was also given to drinks composed of the juices of
certain fruits, and in which grapes were in no way used. These were the
cherry, the currant, the raspberry, and the pomegranate wines; also the
moré, made with the mulberry. There were also sour wines, which were
made by pouring water on the refuse grapes after the wine had been
extracted; also the drinks made from filberts, milk of almonds, the
syrups of apricots and strawberries, and cherry and raspberry waters,
all of which were refreshing, and were principally used in summer.
Medieval Drink -
Honey was used to make a sweet alcoholic drink called mead which was
drunk by all classes. Wine was generally imported although some fruit
wines were produced in England. A form of cider referred to as
'Apple-wine' was also produced. Ales were brewed with malt and water,
while beer contained hops that held a bitter flavor. Other flavors were
added to ales and beers such as bayberries, orris, or long pepper.
Consumption of weak, low-alcohol drinks at this time has been estimated
at around one gallon per person per day.