Friday, February 01, 2008

Beer O'Clock: Bill Shakespeare & beer

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A more contemplative Beer O'Clock for you this avo.  "Wot's 'contemplative' mean?" you ask?  If you do have to ask, let me warn you this post is probably not for you.

This week we celebrate the connection between beer and Bill Shakespeare.  If you ask this time, "Wot connection?" then this post is very definitely worth pursuing.  You see, according to new friend George Light (who writes at the NeverMind Aesthetic blog), your basic garden ale was "the little drink that made the glories of the English stage possible."

shakespeare_narrowweb__300x322,2 Without beer, no Bill (not least because his father was an official ale-taster, which meant sitting around in leather keks to test the quality of beer).  So not only no beer, no Bill - it also turns out that without Bill, no beer. 

You see, Elizabethan pubs hosted entertainment for the same reason that today's pubs host karaoke: because it pulled in the punters.  The strolling players of Will Shakespeare's troupe performed the same function then that gigging guitarists do today: and it was William Shakespeare who wrote the very best material for those players.  It was Shakespeare's stuff that brought in the punters that allowed the world's first commercial brewers to prosper.

drink.tg1All  hail The Bard!

If this astonishes those of you who take their theatrical performances only with "a glass of wheet ween, darling,"' then let George tease out the historical implications of all this for you. Theatre began, he says, "as a physical extensions of drinking establishments, with inn-yards being utilised as the first semi-permanent sites of theatre..."

Turns out William Shakespeare made of a lot of early brewers very happy.  And turns out today's theatre-goers have more to thank yesteryear's ale drinkers than they might realise.

This weekend, raise a glass to old Bill --  and to learn much, much more about beer, The Bard, and the Elizabethan ale and beer wars, download and consume George Light's 'Beer & the Bard' here [pdf].  "For a quart of ale is a dish for a King!" as the Bard himself once said.  And as his own King Henry said ... "I would give all my fame for a pot of ale." A very wise king indeed.

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