Top 10 Shakespearean drinks

Ale & Beer

Elizabethan_aleAt the time of Shakespeare, drinking the water was hardly an option, particularly in towns and cities.

Ale and beer were popular as a result, but were very different creatures.

Ale was a traditional, mild-flavoured drink, popular with everyone, including children, and was drunk from breakfast through to bedtime, providing a ready source of Vitamin B. Ale was brewed at home as well as by commercial brewers, and crossed the social spectrum from the poorest to the most aristocratic.

By contrast, beer was at the time a recent introduction from Holland, where they added hops. The aromatic addition was initially seen as an adulteration, and viewed with a good deal of suspicion in England, but it gradually took hold. By Shakespeare’s time, beer would have been a relatively sweet and fruity drink, with ale a lighter option.

Brewed in the home, ale was not subject to quality standards, but commercial brewers had to conform to stricter regulations on ingredients and pricing, with official ale tasters checking their products. Shakespeare’s own father, John, was appointed to the role in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1556.

There was no shortage of places to enjoy a pint, either. A survey of 1577 counted over 16,000 ale houses, taverns and inns across England and Wales for a population of just four million people – one for every 250 people.

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