The history of beer in the 16th century was one of very high consumption by today’s standards. It was also a period of increased regulation. The goal of such regulations was to ensure purity of beer, income of workers, fire safety, and high tax revenues. It wasn’t to reduce consumption.
This Page is Part of a Series of Timelines
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Beer in the 16th Century
- In Coventry, the average amount of beer and ale consumed was about 17 pints per person per week. That compares to about three pints today in England.
- Soldiers received two-thirds of a gallon of beer each day.
- Polish peasants drank up to three liters of beer per day.
- Swedish beer consumption may have been 40 times higher than today in Sweden.
- In Denmark, the usual consumption of beer was a gallon per day for adult laborers and sailors.
The Beer Purity law (Reinheitsgeobot) was established in Bavaria. It had been pushed by the Bavarian brewing guilds. Only barley, hops and pure water could be used in brewing.
Hops were first grown in England on a large scale.
Denmark established minimum requirements for commercial breweries to increase their size. This was to simplify tax collection. It also reduced the danger of fires.
In England it was illegal for brewers to make their own barrels. This was to protect the livlihood of coopers.
Brandenberg prohibited illicit brewing to protect the municipal government. It relied on beer revenues.
Brandenberg prohibited both brewing and serving alcohol on Sundays and high holy days.
Beer was first sold in glass bottles in Germany.
With the spread of Puritanism, attacks on intoxication and ale-houses increased.
Each sailor in the English navy had a daily ration of a gallon of beer.
Queen Elizabeth I of England drank strong ale for breakfast.
Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible replaced the sale of beer with vodka at state-run taverns.
The first beer brewed in the New World was at Sir Walter Raleigh’s colony in Virginia. But the colonists didn’t receive it well. They wanted beer from England.
The last recording burning of a “brew witch.” Brew witches (or beer witches) were men and women who were blamed for problems in brewing. Such executions were a distressing feature of beer in the 16th century
We’ve had a look at beer in the 16th century. Now it’s time to see what happened during the History of Beer in the 17th Century.
Beer in the 16th Century
- Bennett, J. Ale, Beer and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300-1600. NY: Oxford U Press.
- Hornsey, I. A History of Beer and Brewing. Cambridge: Royal Soc of Chem.
- Smith, G. Beer: a Global History. London: Reaktion.
- Unger, R. Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. U PA Press.
- ____. A History of Brewing in Holland, 900-1900. Leiden: Brill.
- Know of any items to add to beer in the 16th century? If so, please contact hansondj [at sign] potsdam [dot] edu/. And thank you for your help!