Classical Beer Review: Audaces fortuna iuvat

This is a guest post by none other than the infamous beer buddy Jamie (see previous posts here, here, here and here)! Jamie is currently finishing up his PhD in Western European Archaeology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His thesis research seeks to reconstruct the ancient agricultural economy of farmers living at the border of the Roman Empire in the Netherlands. Jamie is also trained as an archaeobotanist, so we might call in his help in the future to talk about the cereals and botanical adjuncts used in ancient beer! 

Funny how things come full circle. After a four-year absence, I returned to Durham, UK where I had spent four very happy years as an undergraduate and Masters student of archaeology. I came to present the final results of my PhD research on Roman agriculture in the Netherlands at the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC) now in its 27th year. I left my alma mater a student and returned…? well, a slightly older student.

Walking from the train station through the city to my accommodation at Collingwood College (not, alas, the college of my student days, St. Mary’s), I was struck by how little had changed. The next day, an after-conference and well-earned drink at the New Inn where I enjoyed a pint of Seraphim from Sonnet 43 Brew House (the name inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a one-time resident of Coxhoe, Co. Durham where the brewery is located) and a post-dinner beer (Joker IPA from the Williams Bros. Brewery, Kelliebank, Scotland) at The Library helped loosen a lot of nostalgia in this Englishman’s stoic heart.

At the conference welcome desk, I not only received my lanyard and conference program but also a beer! TRAC2017 gave delegates a bottle of beer from a local, brand-new brewery. I certainly hope this becomes a new trend. Having been featured in a number of posts in this blog as a beer buddy, it was time to graduate to a fully-fledged beer reviewer. The beer’s name: Audaces fortuna iuvat.

The name translates as “fortune favors the bold” (literally translated: “fortune helps the bold”). A well-known phrase – some have even emblazoned it on their coat of arms – but known from a number of different versions.

Terence writes in Phormio (line 203) “fortis Fortuna adiuvat” (or, “Fortune helps the strong ones”), Virgil writes in the Aeniad (10.284) “audentis Fortuna iuvat” (or,
“Fortune comes to the aid of those daring”), Pliny the Younger (Epistles 6.16) says “fortes Fortuna adiuvat” and Ovid in Metamorphoses (10.586) writes “audentes deus ipse iuvat” (“the god himself favors the bold”). Whichever way you know it, the message is clear: be brave and be lucky. Or, for the Romans: the goddess of fortune and the personification of luck, Fortuna, will help you if you take a few risks.

On the label we are also treated to some more Latin to decipher: Protinus cerii meellis caelestia dona exsequor (or, “next I sing of honey, the heavenly ethereal gift”). This is from the first line of Book IV of Virgil’s Georgics. And Virgil was not alone in his love of honey; Pliny the Elder dedicated several chapters of his Natural History to the stuff.

Fortune favours…the bold?
The beer had a clear and golden color. There were some citrus flavors definitely recognizable but for this reviewer not strong enough. The ingredients were not listed unfortunately. As a lover of hoppy beers, this beer, albeit tasty, was lacking. And the honey, that gift from heaven or, in this case, North Yorkshire? Very noticeable – a faint smell but a lingering taste of pollen. Certainly an easy drinker at 4% ABV but I’d worry that the sweetness may become too sickly after a few. This is not a bold beer, this is a delicately flavored tipple. Fortuna may not favor it, but I did.

So, thank you TRAC2017 for bringing me back to this city that I forgot how much I cared for, a great conference and the delicious bottle of beer.

PS It struck me as I wrote this that my research is missing any mention of beer production. Can I hear post-doc bells ringing? [editor’s note: if not, surely at least more guest posts at BCS?]

PPS If you haven’t visited Durham before, do so! Bill Bryson commands it.

500 ml
4.0% ABV
Ingredients: not listed
Brewed by: The Three Brothers Brewing Company, Co. Durham, UK


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