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'Brown cow' is an 18th century description for a barrel of beer. The saying probably originated as a way of calling for another round of drinks.
An early example can be found in Scottish author Allan Ramsay's play The Gentle Shepherd (1725):
The auld anes think it best,
With the brown cow to clear their een,
Snuff, crack, and take their rest.
Which we believe translates roughly as... "the old ones think it best to clear their sight with the beer barrel, snuff, gossip and relaxation."
(If there happens to be an expert in 18th century Scottish who would like to correct us, please do!)
Although 'brown cow' is now an obsolete term the saying lives on.
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