Brits take their beer very seriously. To this day, serving the drink below its advertised size is against the law: a pint must be a pint. Back in 1272, some of the rules were even stricter, and in honour of its 750th anniversary, one Cheshire town is temporarily reinstating one of its original government positions: the town ale taster.
Here’s what you should know about the position of an ale taster
Congleton — which is located about 25 miles (40 km) south of Manchester and has a population of around 25,000 people — was founded in 1272 with a charter stipulating that four officials could be appointed: a mayor, a town crier, a debt collector (known as a catchpole), and an ale taster. To celebrate three-quarters of a millennium, the town has brought back the ale taster position, recently giving the honorary role to retired brewing industry veteran Paul Boswell (who, for ceremonial purposes, will go by the new monicker “Benedict Goodale”).
Centuries ago, the job was extremely important: Since water wasn’t always safe to drink, citizens (even children) consumed plenty of low alcohol beer. “The ale taster’s role was basically a combination of trading standards and weights and measures to ensure that the proper ingredients and quality ingredients were being used and they weren’t overcharging for the beer,” Boswell told the Guardian. “It was about making sure the quality of the beer was good and it was a fair price — and if people fell foul of that, they were fined or sent to the stocks.”
But in 2022, the ale taster role will be far more limited. “[Boswell] will have none of the powers invested in the 1272 role,” the town wrote on its website. “He will not be able to fine the town’s publicans or send them to the stocks or prison! He will however use his 35-year career in the brewing and pub industry to help showcase the many excellent pubs and ale houses in Congleton.”
During his 12-month tenure, Boswell will also wear a ceremonial costume created by a local historian and take part in events such as a Medieval fair and Congleton’s annual food and drink festival, according to the BBC.
And, yes, Boswell will be expected to do some drinking. “The role will certainly involve tasting ale. Or I bloomin’ well hope so,” he was quoted as saying. “They’re not paying me, so I hope I’ll get something out of it.”
This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com
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