17 Comments

  1. I wonder if there were cases of brewery branches (wort sticks, maybe?) being stolen and what the subsequent weregild would be.

  2. Great episode. Mead is actually fairly sanitary since the honey is a natural antibacterial and it is often added to water that has been boiled. These qualities would have, of course, been unknown to the Anglo-Saxons.

  3. hey jamie,
    When you were talking about how dry the english wine was, I was wondering if you had a source or if it was an inference? the reason i ask is that i know that in previous times, there was very little understanding of fermentation and the roll that temperature had on it. Often in cold climates, the winter would set in before fermentation had completed, and thus the wines stayed semi sweet until spring when the wines would begin to ferment again. If wine was more a fall seasonal beverage it may well have been kinda sweet by our standards.

    We make wine here in the willamette. you should come on by.
    thanks
    tom

    1. Hi Tom, Ann Hagen did a lot of work on this one looking at the grapes, temp, and commentary where she could find it and came to the conclusion that it would have been (as I recall) thin and dry.

      I sometimes go wine tasting out in the valley. Which winery are you associated with?

  4. Hi! I just started listening, and I figure I’ll become a member when I’m closer to catching up.

    Just a mention about cholera…
    Cholera didn’t appear in Europe until the 19th century. It probably existed in India before that, but didn’t spread in the mass outbreaks across the rest of the world until this later period.
    You can read about it in a variety of places, but you’ll probably prefer a .edu link over wikipedia: http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/contagion/cholera.html
    :D

    Certainly, there were other pathogens that must have existed in water. I’d suspect Giardia and Cryptosporidium, though I’m not familiar with the history of those.

    If you do a podcast on alcohol later on, I’d recommend the book Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World: http://www.amazon.com/Ale-Beer-Brewsters-England-Changing/dp/0195126505

    I’m also curious about some of the alcohol content information that you mention. Later, during the middle ages, a good deal of the ale that was drunk was “small ale” or “short ale” which had a much lower alcohol content.

    I’m really enjoying the podcast. My first degree is in history, I’m a medieval enthusiast, and my second trip through undergrad is pre-med, so I end up tying together the history and biology.

    Cheers!
    Charlotte

  5. Great episode (though I can say that about every episode)! Something to keep in mind though…you kept alluding to unsanitary practices in the making of beer/mead such as leaving the barrel open to the air. I remember you specifically said “gross” to that. The reason alcoholic beverages were so much healthier to drink than water was that there is no known pathogen able to survive the brewing process. The reason modern brewers are so careful about sanitizing their equipment is that the bacteria or wild yeasts that enter the system can alter the taste of the product

    And also, as the previous commenter had mentioned, it is likely that there was a much lower alcohol content in beers and wines then that there is now. Grapes were not nearly as sweet as they are now, so less sugar content, so less food for the yeast. The alcohol content would therefore be lower.

    The “small beer” mentioned above was generally made from the spent grains from the first run of the beer making process. so the alcohol content would be much lower. that small ale is generally what children drank. You could likely drink small ale all day and barely get a buzz

    Think about this….if EVERYONE drank alcoholic beverages with the alcohol content we have today, then there would be a very high percentage of children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and children not effected in the womb who drank small ale would be effected during their development.

    We wouldn’t have the great works of Chaucer if he had been pickled since conception…

  6. Records of bear bones are pretty rare? (1:44:00ish)

    Could you say the records are pretty… bare bones?

    …I’ll show myself out. (New listener, loving the content so far!)

  7. Hello Jamie.
    Long time ago ( not so long as Dark Ages…) I listenedto this great podcast. I love it! but I’m not an ENGLISH SPEAKER, son I can’t understand every single word.- and I really want. So, please, let me know how can I get the transcript. Thanks.

  8. Loved this episode. ♥️
    Would like to add to the animal husbandry info.
    Horses, cattle, sheep, goats and fowl (chickens, turkey, etc.) are dead end parasite hosts for each other. For example, when a horse poops and another of the above comes along, smelling of said poop is involved, which means touching and possibly ingesting the first species’ parasite. Since parasites are species specific, they are unable to continue their cycle in a foreign host, and so die.
    Also, chickens are a huge part of gardening, keeping the bad bugs to a minimum and fertilizing as they go. They are especially helpful in working the soil, making it perfect for replanting. BUT they are also easy prey for hawks and wolves, therefore labor intensive to keep. I mean, who doesn’t love chicken??
    Keep up the good work.

  9. I wish I had found this podcast sooner but if I did I probably wouldn’t have all the terrribly entertaining college stories I have now…opportunities missed but I can’t wait to catch up on this show even if it takes me months

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