Saint Brigid and Her Miracle Ale

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, a celebration for a person who has certainly become synonymous with this country. People have arrived in Dublin from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the parade and, of course, to enjoy a few pints of local beer.

But there’s another famous Irish saint whose stories have become intertwined with the mythos of this island. Tales of a woman whose brewing prowess was nothing short of miraculous.

Today I want to tell the story of St. Brigid and her ‘instant’ ale.

And the story goes that Easter was approaching and herself and her community had only one bushel of malt, one vat and two tubs for making ale. Unfortunately, some 18 churches were expecting them to produce this brew. In response she ordered the mashing to be performed in one of the tubs, then from there the wort to be quickly transferred to the other tub in order to ferment. Instead of the normal weeks of waiting for the yeast to ferment the beer, in this tale, St. Brigid was able to speed up this process and the ‘instant ale’ was quickly sent on to all of the churches.[1]

Thus it went and a single bushel of malt provided Easter ale for all. Her brewing and providing ale for the people around her was not mentioned as a remarkable task, indeed the only thing that is miraculous is the amount she was able to produce, and how she was able to produce it. This may also support the ideology of women brewing in early medieval Ireland. St. Brigid herself is continually tied to beer and brewing in the corpus of stories and tales surrounding and attributed to her.




[1] D.A. Binchy, ‘Brewing in 8th Century Ireland’, in Studies on Early Ireland: Essays in Honour of M.V. Duignan, p. 5.