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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.”

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, or subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast.

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