What Were Sailors Rations Like In The 18th Century?

Sailor Rations in the 18th Century – Burgoo

Regarding the 1 gallon of beer–it’s not like the admiralty wanted to be overly generous with alcohol, but they had no choice because the ethyl alcohol acted like a preservative to extend shelf life and it prevented microbial growth. Any other liquids they tried to bring aboard ships became spoiled and made the sailors sick. This included fresh water which could cause dysentery and diarrhea due to microbial growth inside the water barrels. As far as I know the ship beer was very weak with low alcohol content–just enough to provide antimicrobial properties. It was not the pilsner we drink today (2 pints and you are loaded).