Sept. 19, 2019 — Soldiers stationed on the military frontier brought with them a taste for malt beverages like beer and ale. This was sometimes satisfied by ale imported from England, Scotland, or Ireland, which could be bought at the post trader’s store – if the fort was located on or near a railroad or navigable river. In the days prior to pasteurization, ale’s heady character permitted shipment over long distances because of its relatively high alcohol content.
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Artifacts from Fort Rice and Fort Abraham Lincoln indicate soldiers there were drinking a lot of the precursors to modern-day Bass and Guinness products, including India Pale Ale. However, some posts were too remote and had to brew their own, mostly with less-than-great results. Army surgeon J.N.T. King sampled some locally brewed “common ale” at Fort Totten in 1869. He pronounced it “a miserable article and not fit to drink.”