Beer History: The Mayflower’s Beer Problem

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Everybody’s heard the old story about the Pilgrims and how they sailed across the Atlantic to escape religious persecution so that they could start a little of their own. We celebrate this tiding every year by having a feast that commemorates the genocide of the people the Pilgrims displaced while watching grown men beat the living shit out of each other for control of a pigskin ball. But did you know that the Pilgrims only landed where they did because of a shortage of beer? They may have been religious fanatics, but when the chips were down, they knew what was REALLY important.

Yes, indeed, the Pilgrims had made that fateful journey across the ocean with plenty of livestock, bibles, and lice, but didn’t account for the amount of beer they would need to while away the mind-numbingly boring days on the boat. They couldn’t have sex, they couldn’t gamble, most couldn’t read… what else was there except hooch?

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“Land! Thank God! Now to business; where’s the closest liquor store?”

After searching desperately for a port of call (they were hoping for Virginia, but apparently God works better as a witch-finder than a navigator), these pilgrims finally landed on what is now known as Plymouth Rock. A diary from a Mayflower passenger explains it thusly, “We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer.”

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“Fuck. I KNEW lowlifes would show up if we didn’t say BYOB…”

Soon, the Pilgrims established relations with the local American Indians, who treated them to local beer made out of corn. The immigrants were thankful for this, I’m sure, because pretty soon, they started dropping like a priest’s pants at a Cub Scout convention (roughing it in the wilderness being slightly more difficult than doing so on the streets of London). Even with this Mohegan brew at their disposal, I think dying of starvation would be a pretty bad way to go.

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“Chastity, Prudence, Enlightenment, and Increase are all dead, Goodie Hayworth… so it must have been YOU stealing my sixers all along!”

Eventually, they made it through, of course, and celebrated their Thanksgiving, though what they had to be thankful for, I’m not exactly sure. Most had died, they hadn’t landed where they wanted, and eventually, they’d be swallowed up by other invaders. Still, they’d survived a rough spot that would have made Teddy Roosevelt blush and managed to get some beer out of the deal. All in all, a good trade.

So the next time you find yourself gulping down a beer, think back to our ass-backward forefathers. They may have thought that demons caused disease and that bathing was an idea of the Devil, but they started our country off right: on a foundation of beer.

Oh, and the subsequent massacre of people. I mentioned that, right?

- Steele

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