It is well known that historically the Town Crier’s primary function was to make public announcements. Less widely known is that Town Criers had many other responsibilities, including that of the ale-taster.
Often appointed by the Lord of the Manor, the Town Crier was effectively a forerunner of the Weights and Measures Inspector. He had authority to test the quality of ale, beer and wine (as well as bread, meat and fish), and to proclaim that such goods offered for sale were ‘fit for men to drink’.
The Town Crier could command the landlord of any hostelry, inn or tavern to ‘bring forth two tankards of thy finest ale, that my ale-tasters may drink and taste and judge its quality’. If the landlord failed to comply he might find himself placed in the stocks!
The ale-tasting ceremony may be revived for a pub opening/refurbishment/product launch or similar, and has the potential to attract much media interest, being both colourful and having an historical flavour. Local dignitaries/personalities may be roped in as assistant ale-tasters to add further interest and participation.