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Members of Alcester Court Leet sampling some of landlord Frank lkin’s ale outside the Royal Oak

Stratford Herald 1978 (July?)

oak ale tasters

SOBER-SIDED citizens of Alcester Court Leet were prepared to make sacrifices in the line of duty – a duty that’s been theirs since time immemorial – when they made their way (fairly steadily) around Alcester’s 17 pubs and clubs this week, checking the brew in time-honoured fashion. Yes, they had to drink it.

Which takes some swallowing because often they couldn’t do things by halves. The poor devils had to drink whole pints.

Not that the custom of making sure the beer was “good for men’s bodies” has always been exactly the same.

Once upon a time the Ale Taster used to pour the ale on a bench and then sit on it. If after a while his leather breeches stuck to the wood then the brew was declared excellent.

“But if he did not adhere to the bench then the brew had fallen”. Court Leet Constable and Historian Aubrey Gwinnett explained.

This year’s Ale Tasters, Michael Newey and John Bradley treated their beer in a more respectful way. They started at the Royal Oak, a free house founded in 1830, with an audience of newspapermen and TV cameras.

“We had a pretty heavy time there”, said Mr Newey, who has been an Ale Taster for the past five years despite strong competition for the post. “They kept on wanting us to pose for pictures so we had a fair amount to drink there”.

Landlords commanded to produce “two tankards of your best ale that the Ale Tasters may drink and taste and judge of its quality” are only supposed to come up with a half each.

Last year generous-hearted gaffers (sure of the quality of their intoxicating liquor, perhaps) produced five and a half pints on four stops and this time the forward-looking Trades’ and Labour Club served up litre steins.