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Women were the earliest brewers, and the brewing was done in her home. A good ale wife was held in great esteem — Alreck, King of Hordoland, chose Geirhild to be his queen – not because of her dowry or her beauty, but because she could “do a good brew!”

It seemed natural that the woman of the house would knock out a batch of brew at the same time she baked the family bread, as both staples contained the same key ingredients. A woman’s worth was many times judged by happily studying the bottom of a stein, and your favorite Beer of the Month Club considers them all priceless.

Certain women became so recognized at their craft that members of the community would go to their houses to drink and buy ale. These women would signal to the paying public that their latest batch of beer was ready by putting long evergreen-adorned poles out their windows. This “ale stake”, the first ale-sign, is still used today to advertise the opening of new English pubs.

Because beer was as common in the kitchen as bread and porridge, the entire family (including the children) hoisted their mugs regularly. In orphanages, the children were given a pint of weak beer each day, as milk was thought to be infected with tuberculosis. Don’t think it was an era of drunken child abuse, however. Beer was a staple in the diets of people of earlier times because it filled a dietary need.

Most adults did heavy manual labor, so quickly sweat off the alcohol. The homes were poorly heated – ale supplied a form of internal warmth. The majority of the population lived in near-poverty, their diets consisted of thin vegetable soups and bread. Beer played a vital part in keeping them healthy, not to mention happy. The modest shillings earned by a hard-working ale wife undoubtedly bettered her family’s existence.

ASK MR. BEERHEAD:  DON CONNER OF CASTLE ROCK, WISCONSIN ASKS: “AS I WAS BORN A ‘CONNER,’ I’D LIKE TO KNOW WHAT AN ‘ALE CONNER’ IS.”

Governments and town officials in the British Isles and mainland Europe employed Ale Conners during the Middle Ages to test the quality of the ales brewed for sale. They would pour some ale on a wooden bench, then sit in the puddle. If their leather breeches stuck to the seat, then the ale was deemed to be of good quality. An uncomfortably sticky job, it was both hard on the conner’s attire and his mental health. What a sad waste of perfectly good ale!!

Featured Beer from Fordham Brewery:  Rosie Parks Oyster Stout & Copperhead Ale

STOUT — Fordham’s Rosie Parks Oyster Stout — A close cousin to the Porter, most Stouts have a roasted coffeelike flavor not found in Porters. Fordham’s version is unique, with oyster shells added to the boil. This is the brew most recommended by doctors for nursing mothers — really!  With its subtle sweetness, it’s a ringer for pairing with French Vanilla ice cream or anything chocolate. (Yes, it’s top fermented.) AMERICAN AMBER ALE — Fordham’s Copperhead Ale — This is an amber-colored,top-fermented ale with perfect balance between earthy, mild bitterness and caramelized malts. This Amber can be paired with the best cuts of pork, bacon or ham, Gouda cheese and pear fritters. Serve in pint glasses at 45 to 50° F.

Featured Beer from Heavy Seas Brewery: Loose Cannon IPA & Powder Monkey Pale Ale

INDIA PALE ALE — Heavy Sea’s Loose Cannon IPA  —  There is a long snappy finish to this top fermented ale family of “beers of yesteryear.” Full bodied and heavily hopped, serve it at 55°F with hearty main courses of red meats, Pork and applesauce, Buffalo wings, Cheddar cheese, sharp salad dressing, and carrot cake for dessert.

PALE ALE —Heavy Sea’s Powder Monkey Pale Ale — Inspite of the name,these fruity, nutty, toasty flavored brews are golden to amber in color – this one’s brassy. Well balanced with distinct bitterness, serve with burgers, English cheese & bread pudding.

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Tracie Burket
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