Ah, Utica Club. Craig brought Utica Club. He brought a few other beers. Beers that even came in caged cork topped bottles. But he brought Utica Club. It's a funny beer. An old school macro lager made by a regional craft brewery. Is it hidden craft? Faux macro? Whatever it is, it's five bucks for three litres at central NY gas stations. Summertime beer. Maybe even a cure for the summertime blues. Maybe. We talked over a pint or two before turning to a few more complex beers. Sweetish with a well placed jagged edge. Everything in its proper place. Nothing off or awkward. A beer for craft's endtimes. Both pure and XX. According to the label. We talked of these endtimes. I blame Boak and Bailey, writing that non-derivative book that no one else will match. Takes the wind from the sails, didn't it. So much for no one ever going beyond what's gone before, been done before. Things get confused once those sorts of things get going. Not knowing your place. Can't tell heterodox from orthodox. Hard to find which side of the map is up. Things go round and round. The saison driving north from Virginia or the Carolinas was wonderful after the cork popped. But so many are in a similar way, aren't they.
One of the things folk will look back on the 2007-2016-ish era of craft beer as a dominant form of branding will be its excruciating preciousness. Consider this silly article from Fortune magazine, itself one of the silliest places to find an argument defending what holds itself out as some sort of artisanal cottage industry manufacturing:
Budweiser did not respond to requests for comment. But it’d be a mistake to think the company is making these ads recklessly. Every time the craft beer world gets worked into a lather over one of these spots, it helps spread the Budweiser name. The fact that you can get a reaction today at the mere mention of that Super Bowl ad, which (with its lack of humor or cute animals) would likely have been long forgotten by this point, is actually pretty astonishing.
It's tooth achingly uncomfortable, isn't it. A big money mag pretending to unpack the obvious which is itself the tooth achingly uncomfortable tale of misguided craft believers (lacking the goldfish with whom to have an actual relationship apparently) objecting to a big beer TV ad. Except the crack in the ad is aimed at that odd beer with the fun branding that leaves the weird melon rind gak in your mouth. It's true that nobody actually cheers for the guy who brings a watermelon wheat beer. Everyone thinks "crap, why not their IPA?" And except that the article suggests that craft beer fans and brewers are "strengthening the bond" at the very same time the brand of "craft" is diluting (not boom and busting) itself - as the same brewers lose touch with the story given all that retail coin just sitting around waiting to be managed, given all the fests to attend, given the need to sit with the HR committee and go over some reports, given their futures to look after.
This has a generous measure of the truth. Not triumphant. Now it's just getting sad. The photo above is from that blog post. The weariness in the eyes captures the zeitgeist, doesn't it. My review? Beautiful image. Even the self-conscious t-shirt is marketing. The lighting just so. As Jeff wrote this week "it sounds absolutely joyless and insufferably precious." We are at the end of something. Something that will be cringeworthy one day. Fortunately beer will go on. Breweries will be born, grow and die over and over. It's not like it's going out of style. Beer is good like that. I just hope the consulto-expert class gets in front of it and finds that new hymn to sing. If only for their sake. OK, fine - only for their sake. They need to get real jobs anyway.
The brewery of Clowes, Newbury and Maddox sat on Stoney Lane in Bermondsey, London. The late Georgian artist John Chessell Buckler created a number of images from the district of Bermondsey. The watercolour of Clowes, Newbury and Maddox was painted in 1827. Charles Clowes, John Newbury and Erasmus Maddox that is. In 1868, the image was owned by the Corporation of London. I know nothing of Bermondsey other than what I read from Boak and Bailey or Stonch about the Bermondsey beer mile, something of last year's model apparently. A place of rubbish-strewn industrial estates. Huge groups of lads getting pretty drunk, stag parties. Sounds fairly Georgian. Clowes, Newbury and Maddox were in operation in 1794. Charles Clowes was an admirable man, a lawyer turned brewer. He installed one of James Watt's engines in 1796, even though he is reported to have refused the idea in 1785 after making inquiries. It is mentioned in a very interesting passage from 1805:
...the very capital malt distilleries at Vauxhall, Battersea, Wandsworth, and Kingston,. the large porter breweries of Messrs. Barclay, Clowes, Holcomb, &c. together with the infinity of pale beer breweries in the Borough of Southwark, and dispersed through every town and Tillage in the county, cannot be at a loss to account for the magnitude of the demand for this article.
Note. The infinity of pale beer breweries - not of households brewing pale beer - meeting the demand.
The brewery of Clowes, Newbury and Maddox seems to fit into Buckler's interest in interesting and dilapidated structures from the previous century or before. He was an architect who was the son, brother and father of architects. The images are largely lifeless or rather at least without human participants. Their effect is sometimes present. The ruts in the road. Idle carts. His views illustrate scenes from the mapping I have been poring over. The Three Tuns public house on Jacob Street, Bermondsey to the left. The Duke's Head Public House in Red Cross Street in the middle. The King's Head Inn on the East Side of the High Street, Southwark to the right. The places Buckler took and interest in can be found on Greenwood's Map of London from 1827 if you nose around a bit. The Duke's Head lasted until at least 1874.
Once I used the phrase "the theatre of the mouth" and Stan liked the idea. Or maybe just the sound of the phrase. I was thinking about it today for some reason and realized that I had never described what I meant when I thought about this to myself. Well, the phrase itself places one in the seat, the only place that ultimately matters. No one can taste for you anymore than someone can attend a play for you. I was a playhouse usher for years so the analogy works for me.
Having now drawn the graph at dusk by the window, I wonder if it really works sitting there in 2-D. Nine squares through which the sensations move. Tic-tac-toe. I'll have to think about this more, flavours and textures flitting in and out in order as the grid is traversed from left to right. Spaces between indicating selectivity and articulation. Do I fill it in with coloured pencils? Emoticons? My Little Pony stickers? Or by using it would it become less useful as a concept, a conceit?
In all thy forms of Porter, Stingo, Stout,
Swipes, Double-X, Ale, Heavy, Out-and-out,
Hail! thou that mak'st man's heart as big as Jove's!
Of Ceres' gifts the best!
A cure for all our griefs: a barm for all our—loaves!
Oh! Sir John Barleycorn, thou glorious Knight of
May thy fame never alter!
Great Britain's Bacchus! pardon all our failings,
And with thy ale ease all our ailings!
That's the first bit of "Ode to Beer" from the Comic Almanack for 1837. What a jolly bauble. Exactly what we largely like to tell ourselves about the merry merry world of the past. Dickens without all the bad bits. The view from outside the Bermondsey¹ public house, as above, in 1854. As we all rush about finding older records to share about beer and brewing in, mainly, the English speaking world, I have wondered about the difference between the official record and the actual experience. By official, I don't mean governmental or even sanitized so much as the accepted. The approved version. One of the biggest problems leading to the approved version is the love of drawing conclusions or, more honestly perhaps, the use of records to justify comfortable conclusions. We want things to be explicable but we want to be comforted. For authority to be correct we want it to align with out needs. It rarely does. But authorities won't tell you that. Authority has another interest. Consider this passage in a book entitled England as Seen by an American Banker: Notes of a Pedestrian Tour by Claudius Buchanan Patten published in 1885:
I was at some pains to get at the following authentic statement of methods of beer adulteration. A member of London's committee on sewers —an eminent scientist — puts forth the declaration that "It is well known that the publicans, almost without exception, reduce their liquors with water after they are received from the brewer. The proportion in which this is added to the beer at the better class of houses is nine gallons per puncheon, and in second-rate establishments the quantity of water is doubled. This must be compensated for by the addition of ingredients which give the appearance of strength, and a mixture is openly sold for the purpose. The composition of it varies in different cases, for each expert has his own particular nostrum. The chief ingredients, however, are a saccharine body, as foots and licorice to sweeten it; a bitter principle, as gentian, quassia, sumach, and terra japonica, to give astringency; a thickening material, as linseed, to give body; a coloring matter, as burnt sugar, to darken it; cocculus indicus, to give a false strength; and common salt, capsicum, copperas, and Dantzic spruce, to produce a head, as well as to impart certain refinements of flavor. In the case of ale, its apparent strength is restored with bitters and sugar-candy."
Now, this is interesting. And not because all the horrible gak was added to beer back then as it is being again added to beer now. But because it includes the admission of wide spread watering down at the pub. Watered down poisonous gak. Which leads to the question of what people were really experiencing as they looked down into the murky depths of a pewter quart pot a century and a half ago. It makes me wonder it might mean for all those records Ron has dug out of public libraries and brewery attics. The badness of beer by these sorts of additives appears to have arisen after legal changes in 1862 as The British Farmer's Magazine advised in 1875. But there are other issues, more to do with quantity than quality. This passage from The Farmer's Magazine of 1800 is simply depressing:
There are some persons who do not drink malt liquor at all; most people of fortune and fashion drink it very sparingly; while great numbers of the lower orders, particularly coalheavers, anchor-smiths, porters, &c. drink it to great excess, even, it Is supposed, to the amount of five hundred, or one thousand gallons a year each. Upon the whole, I apprehend the quantity of malt liquor consumed in the county, would almost average a hundred gallons per head of all ages and conditions. One thousand gallons per annum, is nearly, on an average, about 14 bottles of ale or porter per day, and is almost equal to what is passed through many drains, made to carry off the superabundant moisture from the earth... upwards of three millions of money are expended by the labouring people, upon ale, porter, gin, and compounds, which is 25I. per family of that description of persons. If wages, on an average, be 12s per week, the amount per ann. is 32I. 4s. which leaves only 7I. 4s. for purchasing bread, butcher meat, vegetables, and clothes!
Holy frig. Perhaps we might take a moment to thank our lucky stars that we are not living when our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents were scraping together their existence. When I tweeted the stats in that passage above, the good hearted Lars responded "I would guess a large proportion of that was small beer." One does live in hope but, really, it's unlikely isn't it. The life of the industrial labourer and his family was simply horrible before the public health movement. In 1835, harvesting labourers required a gallon of beer every day for a month. In that same issue of The Farmer's Magazine that that fact came from, there is a very interesting suggestion in an argument on why public houses were not going away despite their menace, why the labouring man had no choice:
...as to the temptation of company at the public-house or the beer-shop, would it not exist in precisely the same degree if the labourer had a cask of beer in his cellar brewed by himself, as if he had a cask purchased of the public brewer? If there were a disposition to avoid that temptation, and to drink his beer at home with his wife and family, what now prevents the labourer from purchasing a cask of beer and so consuming it? Nothing that would not equally apply to his purchasing malt and brewing his own beer. And if he had a cask, what security is there that his wife or children would not consume the greater part of it while he was absent at his daily labour? And would not he himself he likely to fall into the temptation of consuming it most improvidently either alone or with his companions?
We love to see things through rose coloured glasses. When we are not looking through amber coloured beer goggles ourselves. All but the first of the quotes and links are Georgian and pre-date temperance. When alcohol was so normal it was just a personal failing to let it affect your life as it washed over and through you. I honestly do not know what to make of it all. Have we simply forgotten the grim and bought into comforting fictions about the recent past? Accepted some sort of Jacksonian romance? My first reaction to it all is to praise the campaigners, to scribble a prohibition pamphlet - but then I remember that 1832 impromptu drinking party a traveler came upon in a cellar in Albany, NY: "
...there was no brutal drunkenness nor insolence of any kind, although we were certainly accosted with sufficient freedom. After partaking of some capital strong ale and biscuits, we returned to our baggage apartment, and wrapping ourselves in greatcoats and cloaks...
The surprise of joy? Or a wallowing in the familiar? Or the land of liberty overlaid upon the event instead of the lives of those in the dark Satanic mills?
¹Yes, that one.
Was there a movement lobbying for the political protection of something analogous to real ale in the Victorian era? I came across the idea in this passage in a book entitled England as Seen by an American Banker: Notes of a Pedestrian Tour by Claudius Buchanan Patten which was published in 1885:
One of the means taken by them to secure the purity of the national beverage has been the organization and equipment of a powerful society known as the Anti-Beer Adulteration Society, an institution often heard of in Parliament and on the general platform. Beer from hops, and nothing but hops, is the war-cry of this society; and it wages a sharp war upon the sugar-beer makers, and all other "tamperers" with the so-called national hop-drink. But it is a curious fact, that few are aware of, that the time was in England, and that not so very long ago, when it was deemed quite an outrage for any beer-maker to introduce into his "good beere" that noxious weed the hop, which was sure to be the "spoyling" of it.
I don't think I've come across a reference to the Anti-Beer Adulteration Society before. I stand to be corrected, of course, and did do a few Google searches to see if Martyn had published anything on it already... as he usually has... about everything. Nothing coming up. In Brew Brittannia, Boak and Bailey mention the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers and the National Society for Promotion of Pure Beer both from the 1920s but not this group from forty years earlier. As noted by the wandering American banker Mr. Patten, the "ABAS" was having some political success at the time. We see this noted again in the 16th annual volume of the periodical Brewers' Guardian from 1886 where the same group is the subject of some complaint. In its May 4, 1886 issue in an article "The Pure Beer Bills" about the three proposed statutes "all designed to deal with the alleged adulteration of beer" we read:
It is a favourite argument with the Anti-Beer Adulteration Society’s advocates that they are only asking Parliament to do for beer what is already done for coffee and some other articles; but they carefully close their eyes to the fact that beer is a manufactured article, whilst these other articles to which they refer are all natural products. Beer ought more correctly to be compared with bread, which is presumably made solely from Wheaten flour, but which is now largely made from other wholesome grain, and into the composition of which potatoes almost invariably enter. With quite as much reason should Parliament pass a Bill to compel bakers to state what ingredients other than wheat are contained in their bread. The promoters of these Bills have no evidence of injurious adulteration of beer, but they nevertheless adopt the most reckless statements as to abuses in this direction, and they attempt to play upon the ignorance of the great mass of the people of this country as to the nature and composition of the national beverage.
The author a few paragraphs earlier on stated "[a]t first sight these Bills appear so ridiculous and impracticable that they scarcely deserve serious consideration." Someone's grumpy. Who were these agitators disturbing the brewers' peaceful days and nights? In the American Observer Medical Monthly of a few years before from 1883 we get a hint:
A meeting, representing trade societies and workmen's clubs, was held in London in promotion of the objects of the Anti-Beer-Adulteration Association, which is to put an end to all pernicious adulteration of beer, and to insist that any beverage sold as beer shall simply be a liquor made from hops and malted barley, and to require that any liquid containing substitutes for hops and malt shall be sold under another name, the various descriptions of liquids being clearly defined on a label fixed to the barrel. We learn also, from the London Times, that a deputation from the meeting were instructed to seek an interview with the Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade, in order to impress upon them the necessity for restricted legislation, compelling the brewing trade to produce, and the retailer to supply, beer made from hops and malt alone, or to oblige the vendors to correctly describe the nature of the liquid they sell.
Whoever they are, they are well enough placed to presume that an interview with the Home Secretary is within the range of possibility. In that same year under the heading "Beer Adulteration" readers of the October 10, 1883 issue of a journal called The Medical Press and Circular there is more. Readers were were told of the harm impure ingredients were having on the beer drinking public:
A novel, but none the less important congress was held at Anderton's Hotel on Friday last, to take into consideration the steps requisite for preventing adulteration of beer. Some curious evidence was afforded of the extent to which the Adulteration of Foods Act is inoperative as concerns the article beer. One gentleman testified that in the year concluded June 30 last, hop substitutes comprising various chemicals and drugs amounting to the enormous quantity of 245,000 cwts. were used, while malted barley was very largely replaced by raw grain, Indian corn, potato sugar, &c. Instructive as these facts necessarily are, it is still more so to learn from trade experts that the liquid ordinarily vended as beer is "an imposition and a sham." The assembled members of the Anti-Beer-Adulteration Association did not positively condemn the mixtures to which the term "beer" is popularly applied as injurious to health; but they might very justly have gone this length even; and if they can succeed in bringing about a change in every way so desirable as that of purifying the national beverage, they will accomplish that which will entitle them to a universal gratitude.
Purifying the national beverage. That sounds a bit familiar. A few month's later, a story appeared in The Mercury of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia about a gathering of like minded leading, as they say, individuals down there. During the period when Tasmania was a separate colony, the December 12, 1883 edition included an article titled "Anti-Beer-Adulteration Association" in which minutes of a meeting are set out. Mr. A.G. Webster was voted in a chair by the gathering of 15 gentlemen.Their goals were put very plainly: "all ale not made from malt and hops should be labelled so that the consumer might know what he was drinking." This group seemed to be responding to an earlier gathering in New Norfolk, another Tasmanian community. Note: hop plants were apparently introduced to that part of Tasmania in 1846 and became an important local crop. The connection of the political movement to hop growers is described more explicitly in Volume 9 of the Engineering Record, Building Record and Sanitary Engineer from 1884:
An “Anti-Beer Adulteration Association" has been recently formed by the hop growers of East Kent, who have just discovered that English beer, or the mixture sold as such, is not composed of malt and hops, but of certain noxious ingredients, which have a most injurious effect upon the health of those who drink the mixture. A meeting of the Association was held last Saturday at the Canterbury Guild hall, when it was unanimously resolved that everyone selling any compound as beer which is formed from other ingredients than malt and hops should be compelled to label his mixture, showing the names of the materials used in its manufacture, so that the consumers might know what they were drinking.
The editors of the Engineering Record, Building Record and Sanitary Engineer were not buying any of the Associations anti-progress, anti-chemicals-in-beer mumbo jumbo. "Such a system as this would hardly work" they said. They argued that the current adulteration laws "should be faithfully and strictly carried out" and that "anyone detected in the act of selling adulterated liquors should be punished as severely as the law allows." That's the sorta thing you'd expect to read in the Brewers' Gurardian for God's sake. Interestingly, they also argued that if adulteration was cut back "drunkenness would be very much diminished, adulteration being one of the causes of the great amount of intoxication which exists in England." This idea was echoed by our friend, the American banker Patten who wrote among his observations:
I found many Englishmen who were firm in the idea that such effects as I have described as coming from beer came mainly from drinking poor beer. They said good beer — beer made by the most reputable makers—would not have such bad effects.
So, was this a coming together of a number of forces? Did Parliament, drinking traditionalists and hop growers join forces under the banner of Anti-Beer Adulteration Association against the modernist, progressive, wonder of the new chemically enhanced ale? It seems to be. In issue 69 of the British Farmer's Magazine from 1875 there is an article under the heading "The Hop Farmer and the Adulteration of Beer" in which the connection is spelled out. A group called the Adulteration of Beer Committee is even mentioned. More rabble rousers. Trouble makers. And perhaps even, one can wish, schimists. I do love a good schism. I'll have to do a bit more digging to find out more.
Many comparisons from everyday life show that gold is currently not valued at an excessively high level. While a “Mass” beer (one liter) at the Munich Oktoberfest in 1950 still cost a converted EUR 0.82, the price in 2014 stood between EUR 9.70 – EUR 10.10 (average EUR 9,90). Thus, the annual price inflation of beer amounts to 4.2% per year since 1950.
Here is the whole report. The beer bit is just a small part of it but it is interesting how a comparison of two specific values, one being a beer at a fest, track against each other. Is the real point not also that beer is cheap? Is a variant that US craft would not compare as well? I do love the econo-wit: "Beer-aficionados holding gold should therefore so to speak expect a rise in beer liquidity." It's not all bad academic jokes. The economics of beer have real world implications. The taps in Venezuela may yet turn off. And, as I learned last week when I was twice over in northern NY, the price of beer in personalized international trade can affect a local market.
Buying US craft with an 80 cent Canadian dollar does create some new considerations but, really, not at a macro-economic level. I still bought six pottles' worth. And I will be over again next weekend and I may well buy more beer then. But not as a matter of need. Compare to Angola in the late 1980s when there was hyper inflation. Government workers paid in coupons would to buy foreign beer, which they sold on the black market. Demand. That's what that there is.
I've heard you. More tales of Cripplegate crime related to beer from the records of the Old Bailey. And why not? It's good clean fun, in it? Let's dissect the trial of Michael Martin and Hannah Farrington for grand larceny held on 15th October 1729. It starts out pretty clearly enough.
Michael Martin, and Hannah Farrington, of St. Giles's Cripplegate were indicted for feloniously stealing two Gallons of strong Beer, value 2 s. the Property of John Ploughman, the 12th of May last.
Charged with a felony for two gallons of beer? What's the prosecutor thinking?
It appear'd by the Evidence that the Prosecutor was a Brewer, and the Prisoner, Michael Martin, was his Servant...
Oh, that's what's going on. This is a private prosecution. The master, John Ploughman, has filed an information with the court against his own servant, Martin, for stealing the two gallons of beer. Breach of trust situation. The value is a bit of a side point if you think about it.
....that the Prosecutor having a Store-Cellar near Cripplegate , and Hannah Farrington being a Servant to a Customer of the Prosecutor's, who dwelt hard-by this Store-Cellar...
Uh oh. Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy's boss's beer cellar. A story as old as love and beer cellars have been around.
...and having supplied the Prosecutor's Servants with some Necessaries they wanted when at the Store-Cellar, the Prisoner, Michael Martin, or some other of the Prosecutor's Servants, had at Times, in Return, given her three Mugs of Beer...
Had at times given her some beer! A bit imprecise for an alleged felony. Not only are the amounts of beer involved tiny but the dates of the supposed offences are sketchy. There must be more going on.
...and that the Prisoner Michael Martin , having given an Information to the Commissioners of the Excise of the Prosecutor's using Molasses in his brewing Drink, did set on foot this Prosecution;
Ah ha! The truth will let itself be know, won't it. Martin had ratted out his boss to the tax man for adulterating the beer and there by avoiding paying what was due. Malt tax was a pressing issue. A new tax in 1725 had led to riots in Scotland. Since 1697 In England, 6 pence was paid for every bushel of malt used in brewing. Folk were seeking ways around doing their duty. Bad folk were, that is. Folk like John Cheaterpants Ploughman. The case immediately begins to unravels rather quickly...
...giving the Drink not appearing in the Eye of the Law to be a Felony, and the Prosecution malicious, the Jury acquitted the Prisoners, and the Court granted them a Copy of their Indictment.
Freedom! Freeeeeedommmm! Well, no job and nothing but a piece of paper with the word acquitted on it but at least not transported or hanged by the neck until dead or anything. The latter prospect was cheerily and apparently popularly depicted in the background of that illustration up there showing the Old Bailey in 1735. Moral of the story? If you are going to cheat in 1725 cheat a bigger cheater who's been cheating the Crown.
It's the first bit of the month. Session time. Our host this month asks us to consider this:
For this month's The Session theme, I'm asking contributors to share their thoughts on these things, the tangential items to our obsession. Do you have any special fetish with bottle caps, know of someone that is doing creative things with packaging, have a beer bottle or coaster collection.
Hmm... quick answer... no. Don't care much about bottle caps or label design. Well, except to the extent that they are a means to inflate the cost of beer. I care about that. Then... we are told that detritus means "miscellaneous remnants: odds and ends" which is more than just the weird shaped bottles in the recycling bin. Isn't this space an odd or an end? And spaces like it? Blogs, comments on blogs, retweets on Twitter, reposted Facebook posts redirecting to a blog post with the link to the event? Instagram? Not to mention the incessant flow of the same one style guide book with just another name on the cover and the photos rearranged. Detritus. All you need to know. A patently simple thing allegedly simplified.
Is that true? Is the next guide floating alienated from a fixed point of understanding no more than a bent bottle cap? Four years ago I asked a few questions about style, pointing out how we've deviated from the actual concept. But it's not about styles so much as the whole thing. Style is just a grammar, even if it is dislocated and arbitrary. To paraphrase ever so slightly such distinctions can never be definitive, since the understandings of terminology varies. You can try to link it to solid ground through history or economics but its all still the same. There must be something in the water that causes it. The need to babble, to write about a city you spent just 37 hours in as if you know the place, to generate what Jackson actually called "variation" - all somehow self-generating... like fan fiction as a response to British TV sci-fi. Somewhere someone has made his own¹ Captain Scarlet marionettes and written his own scripts for his newly assembled alt cast of characters. Oddly and to no real end. Apparently, certain folk discuss the symbolism of futuristic space puppets. Beer's like that. All of it. Odd. To no end. But a bit fun. Nothing wrong with that. Or making your own puppets.
Should you care? No. Just because it's largely made up doesn't mean it's not entertaining. So enjoy your cap collection, your guide to the style guides. Your role as a guide to the styles. Or the history. Gives you something to talk about when your not in a pub chatting over pints with friends or having one watching a ball game.
¹Of course it's a guy...
People don't give municipal records the respect they deserve. Where the rubber hits the road, that's what a municipality is. Consider this from the Records of the Borough of Leicester Being a Series of Extracts from the Archives of the Corporation of Leicester, 1509-1603:
Aile tasters and sworne men within the towne of Leicester aforesaid to make inquiries there of the defaltes of tunners & typplers and especially to inquire and present the defaltes and trespaces of common dronckerdes that do vse to sitt typplynge at the aile houses all daye and all nyghte vnthryftely, and their wyves and children almost sterve at home for lacke of good releffe and sustentacion.
That cheery wee note from the Tudor world was entered into the records on November 18, 1569. Another dated April 7, 1592 just states "Ale 2\d. a gallon "as well strong ale as the tunner's ale." What's a tunner? Or tunner's ale? In the records of the municipal corporation of Boston, there may be a bit more information:
According to the Corporate records, the brewers in 1547 were ordered to sell good ale for 1¼d the gallon, double beer 1½d. the gallon, and single beer 1d. the gallon. In 1552 small ale was sold at three gallons for a penny, "till malt rise in price;" and good ale 2d. the gallon. In 1558 the brewers were to sell double beer at 20d. the firkin, and single beer for 10d. In 1575 certain persons were appointed ale-tunners to taste the ale and beer before it was sold. Brewers, before they "tunne their ale and beer, to send for the ale-tunners to taste the same to see that it is good wholesome drink:" prices to be regulated according to the price of malt.
That doesn't look right. Muddies whether the ale tunner is an officer who is required to ensure that the beer is in good order or if they are someone who needs ordering about by an officer. The tunner seems to be consistently defined elsewhere as the cask filler, not the judge of anything. Hmm. This record from Nov. 16, 1520 also from Leicester helps a bit with the process:
Allso that no brewer within this towne sell forthe no ale tyll the allderman of that ward and too of ye XLVIll haue tasted their alls bothe the best and ye second in pene of forfeture the fyrst tyme iiij". Wnd. and so to dowbyll as ofte as they make defawte; and yf the alderman of the ward be a brewer hymselfe or thos that [are] of the XLVIII, then to call the alderman of ye next ward to taste as aboweseyd for they that be brewers schallbe no tasters.
I love that "best and ye second" as the same was still going on in Vassar's brewery in 1808 before things got too scientific. And there are a string of separate Tudor functions and trades all in those passages up there: the XLVIII, aldermen, brewers, tunners, typlers, tasters. The XLVIII or "the 48" appear to be members of a secondary level municipal council, beneath the one formed by the aldermen. A typler is a retailer as we can see the Leicester's law of around that time provided "that no typler within this towne sell no ale with onlawfull mesures."¹ It looks like the tunners and the typlers answer to the alderman and the tasters all to ensure the dronckerdes get their proper aile. If the aldermen and tasters are checking on on the tunners and typlers, they may be ensuring proper measures are sold at both the wholesale and retail levels and not just whether the stuff is foul or tasty. Quantity as well as quality control. Tasters were municipal officers who were otherwise titled better known as "ale conners" and lesser known as "ale founders" - the last of which lingers on as an especially obscure family last name. They also confirmed price. In 1853, of the 234 boroughs in England and Wales, 26 had officers titled "ale tasters", six had an "ale founder" while only four officers were called "ale conners". Martyn has explained that they did not sit in puddles of ale as part of their job despite modern sillinesses. Hornsey has more of both the law and the silly.
If all that is correct, the note about Boston is wrong and the tunner is not the taster as these were separate and separated tasks. Checks and balances. Still not sure what "tunner's ale" was in 1500s Leicester... or any other place or time for that matter. Another day for that perhaps.
¹The named measures include "strykes", gallons, "potell", quarts, pintes. I can spot the pottle but not sure what a stryke is. By the way, I am not sure if that image is related to ale, is English or even from the 1500s. Looks swell, though.