In Mary Miles’ talk on Brewing in Somerset, members learned that Bog Myrtle, which is supposed to protect linen from fleas, was also said to promote rapid drunkenness and was once an ingredient used in brewing beer and that Coriander, Liquorice root and Nutmeg, which is toxic in large quantities, were also often used before hops became the flavouring of choice.
In the seventeenth century in Somerset each person, including children, drank on average two pints of beer a day. This was often the weak “second brew” but it provided sustenance and the boiling undergone in the brewing process meant that the water was sterilised and so much safer than other sources of water. Workers at the time were often partly paid in beer.
Mary showed a picture of a bench end in Milverton Church which shows an Aletaster, an early Trading Standards Officer, checking on the quality of the beer and the accuracy of the measures in which it was sold. She also showed a picture of the Brewer’s House belonging to the West Somerset Brewery which still stands today as part of the Brewhouse Theatre.
The evening ended with Brian Hunter, the Deputy Chair of FOTMOS, presenting Betty Carter with Honorary Life Membership of the Friends. Betty, who has given fascinating talks to the group and featured in the Museum’s War Stories production, has been a member of the group for twenty-five years but will shortly be leaving to be with her son and his family in Australia.