Medieval monks not only copied manuscripts, preserving works from classical times, but also became Europe’s leading vintners. Without modern preservatives, medieval wine was young, and to modern sensibilities tasted awful. But it was full of nutrients, and drinking water was often unsafe.
Most wine and good quality beer was made in monasteries. People brewed beer at home, but homebrew couldn’t match what the monks produced.
The origin of alcohol distillation is disputed. European knowledge of alcohol (an Arabic word) spread during the crusades when Europeans had contact with the Arab world. European physicians advocated it for medicinal purposes.
One of my favorite medieval illustrations is a monk sneaking wine from the wine cellar. There was considerable preaching against the abuse of wine. Little has changed in a thousand years.
For more about medieval beer, wine, and alcohol: http://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/alcohol-in-the-middle-ages-dark-ages-medieval-period/
Read more about the medieval world in my new novel, The Viscountess and the Templars.
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