I’ll admit I was saving this one because it was a tie in to another subject that hasn’t fully materialized, at least not yet. There is a bit of an interesting twist on this one anyways, so we’ll get to it eventually.
This is my review of Ommegang (GoT Series) My Watch Has Ended Imperial Brown Ale.
The story goes in Valley Forge, Gen. George Washington had a decision to make. Due to an outbreak of smallpox he could lose a third of the soldiers in garrison for the winter. Since smallpox was common in Europe, a fair majority of the British Army was likely to be immune during the outbreak. This lead to rumors the British were intentionally spreading the disease, possibly through blankets donated for the war effort. Inoculation at the time was not the exactly safe, especially since groups of soldiers previously attempted to inoculate themselves caused outbreaks within their ranks.
Even today, some Corporal pulling out a knife in the barracks and asking, “which one of you pussies wants smallpox?” still sounds entirely plausible.
Washington was at first apprehensive because soldiers began doing this during the summer, and campaigns at the time were only undertaken when the weather was nice. Eventually, he ordered the Continental Army to be inoculated against smallpox. Some historians credit this decision for winning the war—sort of. After all they stillI had to fight and beat the British army. I like to think of this as more like the British after Dunkirk; by itself is not the reason for the war’s result. The event lead to the entire army being in a position to fight another day, who may not be there had the event not occurred.
Inoculation was first tested in the Americas in the 1720’s by a protestant minister named Cotton Mather. Being well-connected, he was aware the process was tested to some success in other parts of the world. His writings to the British medical authorities of the day balked at the method used, because it was inherently dangerous. Mather of course did not come up with the process either, he learned it from a slave whom he named Onesimus in 1706 upon purchase. Mather previously did not think much of Onesimus until he told him of the inoculation method in 1716:
Mather didn’t trust Onesimus: He wrote about having to watch him carefully due to what he thought was “thievish” behavior, and recorded in his diary that he was “wicked” and “useless.” But in 1716, Onesimus told him something he did believe: That he knew how to prevent smallpox.
Onesimus, who “is a pretty intelligent fellow,” Mather wrote, told him he had had smallpox—and then hadn’t. Onesimus said that he “had undergone an operation, which had given him something of the smallpox and would forever preserve him from it…and whoever had the courage to use it was forever free of the fear of contagion.”
Mather then became the insufferable vaccine proponent of his day, and enlisted the assistance of a Boston area physician named, Zabdiel Boylston. Both initiated extensive testing of the inoculation method—with the first test subject being Boylston’s son. Their efforts did not go unnoticed by the local press:
His method was initially met by hostility and outright violence from other physicians, and many threats were made on his life, with some even threatening to hang him on the nearest tree. He was forced to hide in a private place of his house for 14 days, a secret known only by his wife. After his initial inoculations of his son and two slaves, he was arrested for a short period of time for it (he was later released with the promise not to inoculate without government permission). During this hostility, his family was also in a dangerous situation. His wife and children were sitting in their home and a lighted hand-grenade was thrown into the room, but the fuse fell off before an explosion could take place. Even after the violence had subsided, he visited his patients only at midnight and while disguised. He inoculated about 248 people
What was the inoculation method? Recall the Corporal today–It was fairly straightforward process of taking a sharp object and scratching it against an open pox sore from a patient with smallpox. Then with the same sharp object, scratch it against a healthy patient’s arm. A process discovered in China, that travelled essentially by word of mouth via the silk road. Today the process is not particularly different, even if it uses a more benign Cowpox virus to generate the antibodies. It uses a multi-prong needle designed to place the virus below the epidermis, which is why it leaves behind a noticeable scar. Which from a food for though standpoint, means if not for the Chinese discovery passed along to an African slave to a particularly curious owner, could mean the result of the war might be different.
What was unusual about this beer? It contains a spice called Fenugreek. This is an interesting ingredient because it is one of the active ingredients to testosterone replacement supplements. It has other supposed effects (like lactation) but like any other supplement if it actually did anything, it would probably be regulated as a drug. It otherwise has a bitter flavor to it and is often used in Indian curries to counteract sour or sweet flavors. This makes sense for this beer given it is both a brown ale and one that uses maple syrup as an adjunct. The beer still is quite sweet but has a nutty, toffee-like flavor. All in a pleasant way, but also got me drunk in a pleasant way as well… Ommegang (GoT Series) My Watch Has Ended Imperial Brown Ale 3.5/5