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Brewer's Glee

traditional Australian song
composer unknown

During the early colonial days, a variety of ingredients were added to beer to make it cheaper to produce. Alteration of beer was also done in England and the USA, although it was unlawful to do. From the list of ingredients added to beer, it's a wonder anyone survived drinking it.

What the words mean

  • vitriol ~ sulphuric acid or one of its salts
  • 'bacco ~ tobacco
  • cocculus indicus ~ In colonial days, this poison/narcotic was added in making beer in Australia. It gave drinkers the impression they were drinking very potent beer, but also produce a horrible hangover the next day. It was so potent that only one ounce of the berry extract was needed for 50 gallons of beer.
    Brewers were accused of poisoning their customers, but claimed that it was needed to prevent secondary fermentation in the bottles causing them to burst in warm climates. The berry was also used by African natives to stun fish.

Come all ye wealthy brewers that make colonial ale,
Let us mix the decoction that has such a ready sale:
come hither with your drugs; hope and barley are too dear.
And we'll mix the swipers up a dose of pure colonial beer.

Oh! the brewing of the beer,
Oh! the brewing of the beer.
Success to chemistry, and to the art of brewing beer.

First fill the vat with water, put some molasses in,
With vitroil and opium we may just as well begin;
Put in some camomile, it's a wholesome thing I hear
And may counteract the 'bacco that we'll now put in the beer.

Put in some alum, salt, and ginger, now to make it nice
And to pleasure the poor devils here's some grains of paradise;
And don't spare the nux vomica, tho' strychnine is dear
But we must use it to give a hoppy flavour to the beer.

Here is coculus indicus to make their heads go round,
Here's quassia and here's multum too don't be nice to a pound,
Put nutgalls in to colour it, and potash too is clear,
And to hinder it from scouring put some jalap in the beer.

Let the farmer feed his cattle and his poultry and his grain,
We do not want his barley while we've fox-glove and herbane;
Give us copperas, and wormwood, and hartshorn, and don't fear
That lushingtons need ever go without colonial beer.

Oh! the brewing of the beer,
Oh! the brewing of the beer.
Success to chemistry, and to the art of brewing beer.

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