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Is all the nobility in Westeros permanently drunk ?

They seem to have ale or wine with every meal, even breakfast, and often between meals.

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Wine and ale/beer were commonly drunk in older times, and could be a lot weaker than what we'd expect today. history.stackexchange.com/questions/7634/… and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_beer. If you're not looking for a canon answer I'll post this. –  Jimmy Shelter May 19 at 12:16
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@JimmyShelter Apart from Robert Baratheon he was just a drunk. –  Simon May 19 at 12:19
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@Simon - can't argue with that. :) –  Jimmy Shelter May 19 at 12:28
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Though it's strange, but they drank for their health. They didn't want to get some stomach desease:) –  Gino Pane May 19 at 13:45
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2 Answers 2

up vote 35 down vote accepted

This is very typical of a medieval society. Water was not very clean, so people drank wine or beer with every meal in place of water. For example, Geoffrey Chaucer (the author of the Canterbury Tales) was granted "a gallon of wine daily for the rest of his life" by king Edward III.

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Also worth to mention that, due to using wine and beer as a "sanitizer" of water, watering of wine was usual (allowing for a proper hidratation of the body without the alcoholic intoxication). Jimmy Shelter's point of the alcoholic beverages being stonger nowadays is also right, AFAIK. –  SJuan76 May 19 at 14:06
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Also there's a few mentions throughout the books of rivers being used as latrines, and as things progress, chocked full of dead bodies. Pick your poison: alcoholic beverage with sanitizing properties, or water infused with corpses and feces. –  coburne May 19 at 14:44
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According to The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England (a fine book), the "unsafe water" thing is not entirely true. People had worked out that rainwater was safe to drink, and did so if it was plentiful (as in most of northern Europe). But beer and wine had some extra nutritional value, and were just more enjoyable, so they were very popular. –  Royal Canadian Bandit May 19 at 16:46
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See also history.stackexchange.com/questions/11307/… - some medieval people were quite well aware of the benefits of boiling water. This also supports the "I drink beer because I like it" theory. –  Jimmy Shelter May 19 at 18:28
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@Sulthan: Not so. Small beer was like bread, it was part of the normal diet for ordinary people. The average peasant farmer could certainly afford beer, or make it him/herself. –  Royal Canadian Bandit May 20 at 9:50
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What's "drunk" ?

Drinking alcohol in limited amounts doesn't neccessarily make you "drunk" as per classic definition of that words. A typical adult male doesn't become drunk by drinking a pint of beer with a meal.

It will make you "drunk" as per definition of drunk driving in most western countries, since even low levels of blood alcohol content increase risk of car accidents. However, given the much lower alcohol levels of common drinks of the time, some two cups of "ale or wine with every meal, even breakfast" would result in a BAC of 0.05 percent or below, which has some relaxation and talkativeness effect (and would make you illegible to drive nowadays), but is strictly different from the common meaning of the word "drunk" which would imply the behavior of someone with 0.15+ BAC.

There are cultures nowadays where it's common to have beer or wine with every meal, possibly including breakfast, and it doesn't make anyone "permanently drunk" by any reasonable understanding of these words.

Not only nobility

As per the other answers, you'd expect the same habits for almost everyone else, including women and children. A nine year old daughter of a random tailor would also most likely drink small beer or watered-down wine at lunch and dinner.

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+1. Also, a lot of beer was being consumed by people doing heavy manual labour. They would have sweated out much of the alcohol instead of metabolizing it, so it wouldn't make them drunk. (Not sure there are any modern cultures where wine at breakfast is considered normal, although in places like France or Italy it is commonplace for the afternoon/evening meals.) –  Royal Canadian Bandit May 20 at 9:56
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