Monday, 20 October 2008

A History of Drinking... the myth of the Ale Conner


Last week, having nothing better to do, I watched Griff Rhys Jones' whistle stop tour of London (whilst doing the ironing or something equally artistic). During the show he visited The Old Doctor Butler's Head where they were launching a new herbal 'purging' ale. However before it was allowed on sale, it had to be passed as being fit for human consumption by the City of London Ale Conners.

The ale conners traditionally tested whether or not an ale had fully fermented yet by pouring a small amount of the stuff onto a wooden bench, before sitting in the damp patch for half an hour in a pair of leather breeches. If after this time the conner rose freely then all well and good, whereas if the pants stuck to the bench then it indicated that there were still unfermented sugar residues in the brew.

I came across this story only the other week whilst reading Peter Brown's book "Man Walks into a Pub" and thought oh yes that sounds familiar. However, trawling the internet today I came accross the following blog (www.zythophile.wordpress.com) by Martyn Cornell that blows the whistle on the myth of the act of sitting in beer, along with many other ale related tales that have no substance. Rather he reasoned, the best way to test the quality of any brew is simply to taste it. Hear hear!

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