The study was carried out by an Early Modern History Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, Dr Susan Flavin,as reported by Breakingnews.ie.
It found that beer was just as important to diets at the time as bread was. Susan studied evidence from household accounts, soldiers rations and port books from as far back as the 16th Century. Here she found that beer and ales were looked on as a genuine source of calories and nutrition.
She also discovered that the beverages were consumed in excessively high amounts, with some workers being granted up to 14 pints, per day! Examining records from the 1560’s, Dr Flavin studied masons in Clontarf and discovered that a local priest was giving these workers an allowance of up to 14 pints a day.
Continuing her examination Dr. Flavin found that beer from that era provided over twice as much calories as beers today, 400-500 compared to 180-200. She also found that beer’s back then also had a higher oat content, with barley’s struggling to grow in Ireland’s wet climate in the 16th century. This would mean older beer had a more bitter taste, but was thick and creamy.
"People mistakenly think that 'household' beer in this period was a weak drink...It has been estimated, however, that most beer at this time would have had an alcohol strength of between 7% and 10%, if they used similar quantities of yeast as they do today.", said Dr. Flavin.
Women, Dr. Flavin says, women were also involved in the process of brewing the beers as well as also drinking the beverages.
"The proctor of Christ Church Cathedral, Peter Lewis, would buy commercially-produced beer when his own beer ran out or wasn't up to scratch, and his supplier of 'good ale' was always a woman called Meg Hogg," she added.
She says this role, brewing beer, was looked at as the housewife’s role, with Dr. Flavin’s research showing women and children to enjoy drinking with workers in the evening.
"Domestic brewing was seen as the role of the housewife, and there are also records of women and children joining labourers to drink together at the end of the working day...At Dublin Castle there are even records of 'drinkings' which took place in the main entertaining area of the castle and were ladies-only events."
Dr. Flavins research will be presented at a seminar in London in the coming months, while she will continue to study the nutritional values and attempt to recreate 16th century beers.