Ale for the Ailing

After the vicious storm in Toronto last night you might be feeling a bit under the weather!  If so, grab a bottle of ale and start on the road to recovery!  During the Victorian period, beer was seen as an appropriate drink for the ill, invalids and women nursing infants.  For example, in the treatment of fever, the Cycopaedia of Practical Medicine (London, 1833) recommends spruce or ginger-beer be administered to the patient.  Beer was considered a fortifying beverage that was an ideal drink for invalids and people with weak constitutions.  Lady Mary Anne Cust in her book The Invalid’s Own Book (1853) recommends recipes for spruce, treacle and ginger beer as supplements to the invalid diet.  Beer was also recommended to nursing mothers.  Charles Routh in his book Infant Feeding and its Influence on Life (1879) notes “Ale and Porter have so high a reputation as milk generators.  From Aetius downwards all authors recommended them, and there is no doubt of their efficacy with many nurses.  Many of these will tell you that they cannot do without them.  To stout, and double stout especially, the preference is given, and in my own experience I have found the double stout of Barclay, Perkins & Co., most efficacious in many cases.”  This quote makes me imagine a maternity ward full of new mothers each with a baby in one hand and a pint of stout in the other!  As a side note, Barclay, Perkins & Co. was one of the longest running breweries in London, England, operating continually under the same name from 1781 to 1955.  It’s even mentioned in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield!

So, next time you’re at work and feel a cold coming on, skip the medication and grab a pint.  It’s good for what ails you!


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