It comes from an article on the uses of alcohol. The author has rather class-based concept of suitable drinks. The harder the brain work you do, the better class of booze you need. I think I can equate with that. Though not if I'm only allowed wine. Belgian beer and Islay whisky - that's pretty refined, isn't it?
This is a great justification for the better standard of living for the wealthy. All that brain work demands better food and drink. Unsurprisingly, it was written by . . . . . someone at the top end of society's pyramid. And those labourers, well, they're scarcely better than animals. No need to waste claret and canapés on them.
In estimating the value of alcohol the experience and testimony of healthy persons who use it habitually, and in moderation, ought to be taken into account; also the fact that in all ages, and in every corner of the globe, man has discovered a method of preparing it. There are persons who do very well without alcohol; but this is no proof that it is useless to others. There are country districts where the labourers are healthy and strong without meat,- and with beer almost as weak as water; but docs it follow that the same fare would suit the London lawyer, barrister, judge, or member of Parliament? No, the two cases are totally different. Men whose labour resembles that of horses may and do live, like horses, upon corn and water ; but those who are calculating, thinking, and reasoning twelve hours out of the twenty-four require a more refined sort of food and drink. A ploughboy will look fat and rosy upon his bread and cabbage and hard pudding and water; whilst a Gladstone will require, besides these, good animal food, tea, coffee, and an alcoholic liquor of great purity and refinement. If the brain-work of the London clerk demands a supply of Bass's ale, that of the working statesman will require something approaching oenanthic aether !"
"The retrospect of medicine, Volume 44, July - December 1861", W. Braithwaite, pages 390 - 391.
As well as getting cheap laughs at the past's expense (always easy and there's no-one to argue back), I've another reason for bringing this to your attention. A serious one. It's which particular beer each different group drank.
|agricultural labourer||ginger-beer, or very poor home-brewed beer|
|the working classes of London||porter|
|clerks and shopkeepers||bitter ale|
|barristers, judges, and members of Parliament||wine|
Confirmation that Bitter and Pale Ale remained the drink of the middle classes during the 19th century. The text also that ginger beer was alcoholic.
Of course, a few years later X Ale would be the favourite of the London working classes. The judges, barristers and MPs still drink wine to this day.