Plague Doctor History

During the Dark Ages

During the Dark Ages, people were encouraged to drink ales and to avoid the polluted water in urban areas as it was unsafe to drink. Water was really poor quality and brewhouses were popping up as the healthy alternative to avoid the plague and come together to mourn their lost loved ones.

As people began to get sick, Plague Doctors were contracted by the city to treat the sick regardless of their social status. Plague Doctors are often depicted in an iconic costume and seen as a symbol of death and disease… However, they were misunderstood; they were harbingers of new beginnings as they were the first line of defense against an unknown enemy (disease, bacteria, viruses).

They were fearless. They took risks… They developed a mystique that became their identity.

Plague Doctors wore an ankle-length overcoat and a bird-like beak mask, often filled with sweet or strong-smelling herbs and potpourri (commonly lavender, roses, cloves, spices, and more), along with gloves, boots, a wide-brimmed hat, and an outer over-clothing garment to protect themselves from the illness of the Plague.

They often worked in isolation as they were quarantined for 40 days before being able to rejoin the community. True underdogs, they were regarded as ‘Empirics’ because they got their knowledge from practical experience and experimenting with new methods of treating patients… as opposed to laboratory research.

Commonly held medical theory of the time believed that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids in a person — known as ‘humors’ — would directly influence their temperament and health; each individual person was said to have their own unique humoral composition… The four humors are blood, bile, phlegm, and urine. Different methods of balancing these humors were used to help people heal – such as blood letting with leaches, drinking ales so people had to urinate more… We obviously don’t take such a drastic approach and simply brew high-quality delicious beers to bring balance to your life.

Coincidentally, the art of brewing beer is very similar in that a lot of award winning recipes are found through experimentation and trying new things. There are so many parallels between serving the public as a Plague Doctor and brewing delicious beer as a Brewmaster. Plague doctors didn’t care what other’s thought about them. They were innovators and non-conformists, they weren’t restricted by traditional laws of the time. They were often given special privileges to perform autopsies when it was forbidden for general doctors. They were fearless. They took risks… They developed a mystique that became their identity.

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