World Alcohol and Drinking History Timeline

The Middle Ages

From the Fall of Rome in 476 to the Renaissance, about 1400

Sometimes called the Dark Ages or the Medieval Period, the Middle Ages refers to the period of almost one thousand years between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance. The resulting breakdown in law and order and the inability of Rome to provide protection to the population led to the development of the feudal system and its castles, which provided some degree of security and protection.

Note: This timeline presents events in the history of alcohol and drinking during the Middle Ages in chronological order. When events are listed as having occurred within a period of time, such as cir. thirteenth century, they are listed before more specifically dated events, such as thirteenth century, which is listed before the more specific date of 1214.

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Sixth Century A.D.

“In the sixth century, Gregory of Tours observed that wine had replaced ale as the popular drink of the Parisian taverns and he speaks of the repeated drunkenness of the clergy.”19

Cir. 570.

The monk St. Gildas accused British chieftans of going into battle drunk and leading the country to ruin.20

Seventh Century A.D.

625

Islamic Prophet Muhammad directed his followers to abstain from alcohol,25 but promises them that there will be “rivers of wine” awaiting them in the gardens of heaven (Surah 47.15 of the Qur’an).

Cir. 650

In England, Archbishop Theodore wrote that a person is drunk “when his mind is quite changed, his tongue stutters, his eyes are disturbed, he has vertigo in his head with distension of the stomach, followed by pain.”26

Cir. 675

Fortunatus commented on what he considered to be the enormous capacity of Germans to drink.27

Eighth Century A.D.

While hops may have been used in Bavaria as early as around the mid-eighth century, exactly when and where brewing with hops began is unclear.28 However, hopped beer was actually "a new drink altogether, a product of the technique of precise fermentation using only barley, and in which addition of hops ensured an agreeable taste and the possibility of better conservation."29 Old recipes added such ingredients as "poppy seeds, mushrooms, aromatics, honey, sugar, bay leaves, butter and bread crumbs."30

Ninth Century

The monastery of St. Gall built the first significant brewery in Switzerland. Each monk received five quarts of beer daily.31

Cir. 850-1100 A.D.

“Alcohol was central to Viking culture. Their gods drank heavily; their paradise consisted of a battlefield, where dead heroes might fight all day every day for eternity, and a celebration hall, Valhalla, where the deceased repaired each dusk to enjoy a perpetual menu of roast pork and mead served by awesome blonde Valkyries. The Vikings had the same categories of alcoholic drink as the Anglo-Saxons -- mead, ale, wine, and beor. Like the Anglo-Saxons, they venerated mead but drank mostly ale. Modern attempts to reproduce a Viking brew have resulted in a strong (9 percent ABV), dark, and malty beverage, sweet in taste - which would have seemed even sweeter in an age when sugar was rare. In polite Viking society ale was strained before being served - ale strainers have been found amid the grave goods of well-bread ladies, who performed the role of cupbearers in the Viking halls.”32

859

“Records show that hop growing flourished in Bohemia in 859.”33

Tenth Century A.D.

“The use of hops did not become widespread until after the ninth century.”34

Cir. 950

The word “beer” disappeared from the English language for about 500 years.35 It has been speculated that this was because beer was an upper-class beverage that was stronger and more expensive than ale.36

Eleventh Century A.D.

1066

After William, Duke of Normandy, captured England at the Battle of Hastings, English-French wine trade expanded rapidly.39

Twelfth Century

Alewives in England brewed at least two strengths of beer and monks brewed three, with the strength of the beverage indicated by single, double, or triple Xs.40

1102

In England, Anselm decreed that priests should not attend drinking bouts or drink too much.41

1152

“In England, where wine was imported and expensive, and therefore noble, the demand of its gentry sparked a viticultural revolution in the Bordeaux region of France. This had been English soil following the marriage of Henry Plantagenet to Eleanor of Aquatine in 1152.”42

1188

The first national levy on ale in England was imposed to support the Crusades.43

1191

The king granted exclusive rights to Parisians to import wine into the city on the Seine and sell it directly from their boats. Non-Parisians who wanted to bring in wine had to “first associate himself with a Parisian.”44

Cir. Thirteenth Century

Around the thirteenth century, hops (which both flavors and preserves) became a common ingredient in some beers, especially in northern Europe.45 Ale, often a thick and nutritious soupy beverage, soured quickly and was made for local consumption.46

Thirteenth Century

1214

Philip II Augustus (1180-1223) ordered provinces to submit examples of their wine to Paris for a national exhibition.69

1256

King Louis IX (1226-1270) banned taverns from serving drinks for consumption on the premises to anyone other than travelers.70

1268

A French law of 1268 required that when the king’s wine was for sale at the market, only it ould be sold and criers had to announce its availability morning and evening at the crossroads of Paris.71

Adultering alcoholic beverages was a crime punishable by death in medieval Scotland.72

Fourteenth Century

Cir. 1300

In one English village around 1300, an estimated 60% of all families were connected in some way with the brewing or selling of ale.78

1309

London had an estimated one alcohol vendor for every 12 inhabitants.79

1316

Because of a scarcity of wheat in England, a proclamation was issues prohibiting its use in brewing.80

1330

A law was enacted in England that required that wine and beer be sold at a reasonable price. However there was no indication of how to determine what a fair price might be.81

1350

A French law required taverns to sell wine to anyone who requested it.82

1357

Florence prohibited innkeepers from selling wine or other beverages to poor people.83

1366

Exporting beer and ale from England required a royal license.84

1381

The increasing price of corn in England led to an increasing price of ale, leading to a concern that the poor would be able to afford the beverage. Therefore, the mayor of London decreed price controls on ale.85

1395

Duke Philip the Bold established rules governing the production of Burgundy wine to improve quality.86 He ordered the destruction of all vineyards planted in Gamay because the “disloyal plant makes a wine in great abundance but horrid in harshness.”87

1396

Winemaking in Bulgaria ended when the Turks imposed Muslim rule between 1396 and 1878.88

 

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Resources

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  • 39 Ford, Gene. Wines, Brews, & Spirits. 4th ed. Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA: Gene Ford Publications andthe Wine Appreciation Guild, 1996, p. 15.
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  • 52 Roueche, Berton. Alcohol in Human Culture. In: Lucia, Salvatore P., (ed.) Alcohol and Civilization. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1963, p. 171.
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  • 56 Amaldus de Villanova, The Earliest Printed Book on Wine, Now for the First Time Rendered into English, and with an Historical Essay by H.E. Sigerist, with Facsimile of Original Edition, 1478. New York: Schuman's, 1943, cited by Roueche, Berton. Alcohol in Human Culture. In: Lucia, Salvatore P. (ed.) Alcohol and Civilization. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963. Pp. 167-182. P. 172.
  • 57 H. Brunschwig, Liber deArte Distillandi: De Simplicibus, Strasbourg, 1500, quoted by Roueche, 1963, pp. 172-173.
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  • 64 Gately, Ian. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. NY: Gotham, 2008, p. 81.
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