Binge Drinking, Elizabethan-Style

By Bryan Le 04/30/13

Seventeen pints a week was the norm in Tudor England, where "ale-conners" endured a sticky fate, says an entertaining new book.

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Getting so wasted that the government has to do something about it is nothing new. Back in Tudor England, Elizabeth I had to step in to slap a ban on a potent and Shakespearean-sounding concoction called “double double beer.” According to the recently published Ye Olde Good Inn Guidewhich boasts of containing "all the information a Tudor traveller would need to negotiate a 16th-century pub crawl"—England's soused citizens would drink 17 pints of ale a week on average, reasoning that it was safer than the suspect water supplies of the time. At least, that was their excuse. The Queen's courtiers were no exception: The royal household chugged 600,000 gallons of beer in 1593. But that doesn't mean intoxication was taken lightly. Drunks were "treated" by being forced to sit in stocks or to wear a beer barrel. But so entrenched was English binge-drinking culture back then (not that things are entirely different these days) that con men with loaded dice made a good living by preying on the legions of drunks in pubs. Quality control, on the other hand, was the responsibility of the "ale-conner," whose job was to sit on beer poured onto a bench—if it made him stick to the bench, it was deemed no good. One army commander of the age was mighty impressed that his troops managed to march through France with “no beer these last 10 days” because it was “strange for English men to do, with so little grudging.”

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter

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