10 Medieval Drinks That Became Modern

Have you ever sipped your alcoholic drink on a quaint summer or snowed-in winter afternoon and wondered where the hell it came from? Just historically speaking, you know.

Beer was already found on pottery dating back 7000 years in Iran. In India a beverage called “sura” was made from distilling rice as early as 3000 B.C. The Babylonians by that time worshipped their very own wine goddess. Alcohol sailed by ship to Greece soon after, and they were big fans of mead, made from honey and water. The European Middle Ages are known for drinking. Who doesn’t think of alcohol when hearing about medieval festivals?

Contrary to modern belief, medieval people did not shun water as a drink because it was dirty.

Yes, it was dirty, but it did not keep them from drinking it. There were some physicians who recommended against drinking too much water, but in general some of them already knew to boil water when it smelled bad. The reason the medievals drank more booze than water was because of the medicinal properties they believed them to have. In other words, you drank beer to promote your health, kind of like we drink power smoothies or organic juice today, or take vitamin pills. Tea and coffee did not make it to Europe until about the 16th century. In medieval times, mead, rustic beers, and wild fruit wines became popular. Consumption of weak alcoholic drinks were estimated to be about one gallon per person per day.

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Here are 10 drinks from that bygone era between 1100-1500 AD that we still use today:

1. Ale

This was the affordable drink of choice for many people in the medieval ages, to provide nutrition and hydration. Today it is used for… er… nutrition and hydration…

Anyway, the ales in medieval England were dark and lacked today’s alcohol content, as they were not aged for months but rather produced by alewives – female manor staff – within a week and more akin to a “small ale”. Yes, men, women, and children drank ale for breakfast and nighttime, and it was widely also considered as a type of food. Towards the late medieval ages, however, ale did start getting “strength” labels – by single, double, or triple x’s.

Some ales that are really close to a medieval ale: 13th Century Ale, by Bronuts Brewery, is the most authentic; other choices: Cambridge Brewing Co. Heather Ale Weekapaug Gruit Ale.