One of the less well known roles of Town Criers past was to test the quality of local ales and wines. The Lord of the Manor, or local corporation was legally obliged to ensure that publicans sold a good pint and it was the responsibility of the Town Crier to nominate assistant ‘Ale Kenners’ to actually test the beer. Following due process, the proclamation that a public house’s offerings were ‘fit to drink’ was an important assurance of quality.
The ceremony also became important to local taxation after the first tax on beer was introduced in Britain in 1643. The Ale Kenners used their palates to tell the difference between strong and weak beers, each being taxed at a different rate. So a partially clear head was a requirement and the kenner was required not to ‘“fill their bellies (or drink overmuckle) in the time of the tasting“.
Charity Fundraiser Evening
If you would like to revive this noble tradition and host an historic Ale Tasting Ceremony at your local pub, please get in touch. There is some good natured teasing (mostly of the landlord), the Ale Kenners get to wear official hats and pronounce on the quality of the beer. Basically it is a lot of silliness that is, above all else, a fun event that can get quite a bit of media attention and help raise money for local charities. If you would like to nominate an assistant Ale Kenner or two for the evening, then so much the better.
Contact your Town Crier and revive this ancient and noble tradition in your local.