Worldbuilding Basics #2 – Drinks

“So, you want to know about drinks? I can show you but it ain’t gonna be cheap though. Still, as long as you spend the coin and the drinks keep coming, you’ll learn a thing or two.”

Poor water. That’s an easy one and you can have this advice for free. It’s all around you; in muddy pools, in rat-infested wells and in polluted streams. Sure, some could walk the few miles to find a cool stream and a fresh drink, but the poor have few possession and cupped hands can only carry so much. If your hero is drinking poor water, he isn’t going to be a hero for long. Instead of fighting dragons, he’ll be fighting diarrhoea, nausea and stomach cramps.

Rich water. Quite a rarity this one. Usually served in some of the more salubrious establishments, or in a nobleman’s lodgings when he’s trying to impress. Often served cool when clear heads are needed, and in glass jugs to display its purity, it’s a good companion to merchants whilst brokering deals. Unlike the poor variant, this water has no smell, nor aftertaste; nature at its simplest.

Weak Ale. A staple drink for many people. Being made from grains and yeast it is not only a refreshing drink, but it provides an element of sustenance. An added benefit of ale is that the process used to make it involves boiling, which makes it safer to drink. Often brewed by the women of the household to ensure the whole family are provided for, a good Ale-wife should be much appreciated. For those men who are single, or those who have been married too long, there are a variety of ales sold throughout all public houses, enough to suit any taste and any coin purse.

Strong Ale. The only difference between the two types of ale is whether the drinker is choosing to walk home, or be carried home; you’ll need fewer drinks, but expect to pay a higher price.

Beer. Another staple of home brewing, even amongst the townsfolk as a whole, beer is another common drink. Made from hops it has a bitter taste, yet can be flavoured by a wide variety of herbs and spices. It has been said that monks, who seem to have little else to do with their time after praying, make great brewers and their beers can be ranked amongst the best.

An often quoted prayer is, “May this man who drinks beer sleep well, for a man who sleeps well does not sin.”

Cider. Made from either apples or pears that have been steeped in water, this is a true farmer’s tipple. Depending on the type of fruit used, the result can range from sickly sweet to viciously sour. This is a relatively cheap, yet common, drink amongst the villages and hamlets to the extent that some farmers will pay their workers in cider rather than coin!.  Understandably, the costs can rise in areas where it has to be imported. Sold in a variety of cloudy, and clear brews, that can be served cold, or heated with spices, it is considered to be quite a flexible drink.

Mead. Ah, alcohol and honey! A combination of the sustenance of ale, the strength and variety of a good beer, and wonderful medicinal properties as well, although it comes at a price. Expect to pay good coin and stick to the clear ones with a slight sparkle on the tongue for best results, drinking bad mead can make a man wake up feeling like he’s been kicked in the head by a horse. We have the monks again to thank for this, seemingly they have little time for anything else after praying and brewing beer!

Wine. There has never been a better drink to wet the tongue as a good wine, and may the gods strike down he who brews a bad one. Borne of the grape in warmer climates, it carries a high price for those who can afford it. The rich can afford a variety of deep, full-bodied reds and light, crisp whites , each suited to particular occasions. For some, good quality wines can still be bought from the right people at the right price but, for the rest of us, the watered-down substitute that many public houses turn out will be the closest we’ll ever get.

Dare I mention the monks again?

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