I found this story on Jeff Kacirks’ “Forgotten English” day calendar from August 28th, 2013.
I will preface this by saying that this is a Victorian myth. This was not a real medieval thing. In fact, most medieval ‘facts’ got their start in the Victorian Medieval Revival. It’s still interesting, though, to see what customs captured the Victorian imagination.
“Frederick Hackwood’s Inns, Ale, and Drinking Customs of Old England (1909) described a quaint northern European technique for assuring quality control in beer-making:
“‘In England and Scotland a couple hundred years ago, ale was tested for no other impurity than sugar. The official ale-tester wore leather breeches. He would enter an inn unexpectedly, draw a glass of ale, pour it on a wooden bench, and then sit down in the puddle he had made. Then he would sit for thirty minutes by the clock. He would converse, he would smoke, he would drink with all who asked him to, but he would be very careful not to change his position [in] any way. At the end of the half-hour he would make as if to rise, and this was the test of the ale. If the ale was impure (if it had sugar in it) the tester’s leather breeches would stick fast to the bench. But if there was no sugar in the liquor . . . the tester would not stick to the seat”.
I hope he got a discount at the leather pants store. Because that cannot be good for them.