Appalachian Dialect

Drinking Adam’s Ale

mason jar full of water

Adam’s ale noun Water (as a drink).
1939 Farr TN Mt Regions 89 = water: “I don’t drink nothin’ but Adam’s Ale.”
[OED3 Adam’s ale n 1643]

—Dictionary of Southern Appalachian English

Who knew I’ve been drinking Adam’s Ale my whole life and didn’t even know it! I recently noticed the term while flipping through the dictionary looking for something.

I’m a life long water drinker. I literally crave it.

Several years back when I had to give up sweet tea I started drinking water with all my meals too. Other than my daily cup of Postum and an occasional glass of milk, water, or should I say Adam’s Ale is all I drink.

Pap was a big water drinker too. He was always telling us that water, and lots of it, was the best thing a person could do for their health. Anytime he felt bad he wanted a big glass of water cause he knew it would help.

When I was growing up I could not go to bed without a glass of water by my bed. I l liked it that much. But it was when I was pregnant with the girls that I experienced those health benefits Pap always told us about.

I had a miserable pregnancy with all sort of issues. I was on complete bed rest from just before the five month mark until I had the girls. Since we lived two hours from my doctor and the hospital where I would deliver they set me up with an at home monitoring system. Pretty high tech for those days.

At a certain time each day I would wear a belt that monitored contraction levels. There was a piece that snapped out of the belt and I had a machine, sort of like a fax machine, to place it in. Once I made the call the machine transmitted the data the belt had recorded and a nurse would call me to let me know how things were going.

Often she would call with the instructions to drink a full tumbler of water (they had given me the cup), wait 30 minutes, and then do the test again.

Every time drinking the water stopped my worrisome contractions.

When researching the history of folks who called Western NC home you’ll often find accounts of people who left the mountains to go to the flatlands to work in the mills. Often they quit and came home because they just couldn’t abide the water. I think I would have felt the exact same way. Our mountain water is hard to beat.


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  • Reply
    Patti Brockwell
    April 27, 2022 at 7:54 pm

    I decided to learn to love water after my third pregnancy when I was trying to lose weight. It was difficult at first, as sweet tea was my usual go-to, but once I became accustomed to it, I loved and craved it. Still do. And my kids just naturally picked up drinking it because they saw me doing it, so they never had to learn to love it as I did, and I’m happy about that. I’m going to call it Adam’s ale next time we eat dinner and see what they say!

    Btw, I’m so curious—did you make it to 40 weeks with the twins?

    • Reply
      April 27, 2022 at 8:29 pm

      Patti-thank you for the comment!! I made it to 36 weeks 🙂 But both girls were just fine even though they were a little early.

      • Reply
        Patti Brockwell
        April 27, 2022 at 8:38 pm

        Ah, that’s wonderful! Good job!! I was on bed rest too, due to high blood pressure, so I know how frustrating it can feel. But praise God they were healthy and you made it!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 26, 2022 at 7:31 pm

    I drink tart cherry juice for my gout. I eat oranges, tomatoes, cucumbers and grapes which are all full of water. I drink about a pint of black coffee every mornin and a pint of chocolate milk at night. That don’t leave a lot of room for H2O but I try to get down 3 pints of it every day too.
    Herelately I’ve been drinking muscadine juice when I can get it. I am not fond of regular bottled grape juice but muscadine juice is much sweeter without the tart taste of most grape juices.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 26, 2022 at 7:10 pm

    Water? I don’t touch the stuff! I drink Dihydrogen Monoxide. I shower in it and cook with it too! I think it’s better than plain old water. It don’t cost any more either. Try it, I think you’ll like it!

  • Reply
    Gloria Hayes
    April 26, 2022 at 5:18 pm

    I am a water drinker also. Love it. I never have heard it called Adam”s ale. That’s really interesting!

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 3:32 pm

    I usually have a glass of milk at lunch or supper one and water the rest of the time. I drink 3 – 6 quarts a day depending on the weather and my activities. I have 6 -10 half liter bottles in the car and truck all the time when traveling. I gave up coffee when the doctor said I needed to switch to decaffeinated.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 3:29 pm

    Tipper, I learned something new today! I’ve never heard water called Adam’s Ale. I wonder what they’d do if you requested that as your drink at a restaurant. 🙂 You and I were pregnant at the same time and I also had a very difficult pregnancy. I wasn’t supposed to be able to have any children, but when I saw how much my husband longed for a child I prayed and God answered and proved the doctor wrong. 🙂 My son was worth every bit of the suffering we went through (I say we because my husband suffered right along with me), but I sure wouldn’t ever want to go through that again.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    “Adam”s Ale” is a new one to me and we’re Appalachian born and raised. I do prefer water and if my bp drops too low I drink club soda. Sweet tea was always saved for special meals like Easter or 4th of July. If we had extra money we would make lemonade too.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 10:30 am

    i don’t remember ever hearing water called Adam’s ale.

    On the family farm there are two springs. One on the south hillside which comes through sand rock and sandstone. It is good tasting water. On the north hillside the water comes from a coal seam. It tastes awful with sulfur. Many years ago, there was a moonshine still that used that sulfur water. I’m guessing that had to have been some horrible tasting shine.

    Wow Tipper, your experience sounded awful. Nobody would want to go through that twice.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    April 26, 2022 at 9:56 am

    Last summer I had a kidney stone. That is when I realized the importance of drinking lots of water. I now drink lemon water and Lord willing, no more stones!!! That was not a fun experience! Never heard of Adam’s Ale. I always learn something from you. Take care and God bless

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 9:32 am

    I sure wish I liked water. I recall as a child I always liked water from a fountain where you could get a quick fix. Also, on our traipses through the woods exploring I never passed up an opportunity to stop and drink from a mountain spring. I can still make a cup fashioned from notebook paper that can be used for dipping up the water and drinking. No doubt this feat was taught to me by another mountain child. Yes, we were brave, as I can remember lying down and drinking from the cold mountain springs. It just tasted good. City water tastes gross, so I get bottled water to take meds and if working outdoors. Iced tea, coffee, and milk are always around with hot cocoa in Winter. I never drink soda pop nor buy it even for grandchildren, and it has become a daily battle to force down that “Adam’s Ale.” I have thought about getting a Berkey, but I fear it would just become another huge unused appliance on the counter.
    I did learn as a nurse when we had to measure intake and output that there are many sippers among us. They will sip all day thinking they are drinking, but when the intake is measured it is much below daily requirements.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 9:27 am

    Other than a strong cup of coffee in the morning, water is all I drink. When I was away, I remember telling people how good our water tasted. I fill my water bottles and take them to work. I keep them in the refrigerator and drink from them all day long.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 9:20 am

    Growing up in Wisconsin, we had well water, high in iron. “City water” didn’t seem to have any taste and I hated it!

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 9:15 am

    I have never heard of water being called Adam’s ale. I too drink a lot water, not as much now as I use too when working. I need to start drinking more again. When I am hot and thirsty I only want water and nothing else. Someone else mention water from a spring. On Hwy 107 above Wahalla, SC there is a spring on the side of road named Moody Spring, my daddy would always take milk jugs with him to fill up with this water when we were going to be up that way. Williamston, SC is known for a mineral spring in the town park, people come from all around to get water from this spring for their health.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 8:55 am

    My friend stays on my case about not drinking enough water. I can go days without drinking one drop of Adam’s Ale. Regardless of what kind of aches and pains I’m having, my friend always says YOU’RE DEHYDRATED! I wish I could drink water like I do sweet tea.

  • Reply
    Leon Pantenburg
    April 26, 2022 at 8:36 am

    One of my favorite activities in Mississippi is walking creeks, looking for rocks and plants. I also look for the springs in the hillsides so I can drink out of them. Often, when I am hunting in the area, I will make long detours so I can drink from the spring, sit beside the bubbling water and enjoy being there.

    • Reply
      Sara Stewart
      April 28, 2022 at 1:55 pm

      Hello from Alberta!
      Just want to tell you how much U enjoy your Youtube site!
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  • Reply
    Liz Hart
    April 26, 2022 at 8:31 am

    My water is low on the ph scale. We had to put a filtering system in the well house due to the reaction of copper pipes and acidic water ….. causing blue stains on the bathroom fixtures.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 26, 2022 at 8:13 am

    If I had ever heard or read of water being Adam’s ale I had forgotten it. Very appropriate though and a good starting place as food for thought.

    Water from home somehow satisfies as no other. It has always been a mystery to me how just plain water has a taste. Only thing I could ever figure is it must be the minerals in it. And about that, I’ve never liked the taste of limestone water, nor the sulfur water of the coal fields or the coastal swamps. Distilled water is bland as can be, no taste at all except wet.

    My wife says I drink a lot of water. I don’t think about it, just have to catch back up after being outside. These days though what I would consider a hard day only requires about a quart and a half. Once upon a storied time it was 4 quarts at work and some more catching up afterwards in the evening.

  • Reply
    Mary W
    April 26, 2022 at 8:02 am

    I love water – to chug a glassful after working in the garden is wonderful. We have well water but it softened and tastes bad so I got a Berky filter for my kitchen and run the well water through it – it’s just wonderful – no taste just clean fresh water. Best thing I ever did as I was buying bottled water which I think is not good either but I felt it was safer but we got a softener so the chemical taste came through. Not with the Berky. So now I’m saving money (after the initial purchase). I feel like a pioneer going outside to fill a pitcher with the untreated well water then dump it in the Berky every other morning. So good. I didn’t realize it was Adam’s ale but certainly will remember that!

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    April 26, 2022 at 7:54 am

    I also prefer water above any other drink and I still have to have a glass at my bedside. Adam’s Ale is a term I’ve never heard before, but I like it! It’s always good to learn something.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2022 at 7:53 am

    I wonder if it is called Adam’s ale because Adam was the first man created. I drink a lot of water also and like you Tipper, I crave it. Sometimes I might add some lemon juice or make an infused water with different fruits or veggies. Cucumber or celery are really good ones and are quite refreshing on a hot summer day. Every now and then I make sweet ice tea or herbal tea from herbs in my garden. Because we are on city water we filter our water with a Berkey.

    • Reply
      Patricia Wilson
      April 26, 2022 at 9:00 am

      Genesis 2:10 A river watering the garden [of Eden] flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    April 26, 2022 at 7:51 am

    Spring water is the absolute best for a body as it has vitamins and minerals naturally introduced through its travails through rocks (and yes dirt too) to become literally potable and delicious! In the Army, I was the water buffalo main honcho. We ran lots of water out of the AMAZON through diatomaceous earth to make it potable. If one drinks municipal water let me be the first to wish you tremendous luck with that. It’s loaded with everything from fluoride to heavy metals and even sewage water (after it’s been treated.) I highly recommend drinking and making your own distilled water. It’s easy to do. And H2O is a great drink when it’s pure. I do know this- a small woman (small framed and lightweight) carrying twins increases that woman’s circulating volume of blood which often has severe consequences like heart issues for mom and results in premature births or low weight newborns. I always wondered if your pregnancy was difficult with your size and carrying twins and now I know the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say.

    • Reply
      April 26, 2022 at 1:25 pm

      Hi Margie!
      I’m a bit confused by your post. Doesn’t distilling water remove most if not all of its mineral content? If so then on loses the benefits of the vitamins and minerals you suggest in you first sentence are beneficial. I’ve been told by my doctor that drinking distilled water is not recommended for that reason. We use a Zero Water filtering system. It removes particulates (mostly) from our municipal water, but I see evidence of mineral deposits in my glass electric teapot. I’m sure the flourides and other chemicals added remain, though.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    April 26, 2022 at 7:41 am

    What a perfectly wonderful term! It’s new to me, but since I too love water, I’m happy to learn it!

  • Reply
    Dom D
    April 26, 2022 at 6:52 am

    I remember this phrase being used where I grew up in rural Sussex, England in the 1970s & 80s – mainly by much older people. Great to hear that it’s used in other parts of the world!

  • Reply
    Glenda G. Page
    April 26, 2022 at 6:50 am

    There is something about that mountain water…years ago, my eldest daughter had the thickest hair and it was always a struggle to comb it after shampooing it as it tangled so easily. One summer we camped at a KOA campground in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area and in shampooing her hair, rinsed it with of course mountain water….no tangles and the easiest comb out ever. Naturally we bottled up with as many gallon jugs as we could and took it back to Florida. I learned then about soft-water and loved it ever since. Thanks for reminding me of it’s benefits other than drinking. God Bless

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 26, 2022 at 6:31 am

    I drink a lot of water too; I learned the need for it many years ago and conditioned myself to a lot of water. I measure it out every morning and drink it during the day. I try to drink it before evening so I’m not up during the night to go to the bathroom. If my fingers start to look wrinkled, then I know I’ve forgotten to drink my water.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 26, 2022 at 6:11 am

    Water is slso my drink, I start my day with coffee tho. It dors seem the more you drink the more you want it. I keep it by my side all day and night

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