Through most of the early and middle ages, brewing was a private thing, often relegated to the lady of the household. As populations in towns and cities grew, ale houses, inns and the like grew in number, and the number of brewers (and brewsters) grew in proportion. Like tradesmen of other occupations, Medieval brewers banded together in local guilds.
As early as the 12th century, brewers were being regulated, no only by royal decree, but by guild sanctions as well, as illustrated by the following attempt at fire safety:
that all ale-houses be forbidden except for those which shall be licensed by the Common Council of the City at Guildhall, excepting those belonging to persons who will build of stone, that the city may be secure. And that no baker bake, or ale-wife brew by night, either with reeds or straw or stubble, but with wood only.
The Mistery of Free Brewers within the City was regulated by the Common Council of London in 1406. The Master and Wardens of the mistery of Brewers would meet each Monday at Brewershalle. Meetings of the general membership were held as well. At the election feast in 1422, the:
brothers of the company paid 12d. and the sisters 8d., and a brother and his wife 20d.
In 1437 (or 1438) a Charter was granted, incorporating the freemen of the Mistery of Brewers of the City of London. Calling themselves the Brewer's Company, the master and wardens of this Company had the power:
to govern and rule all men employed in, and all processes connected with the brewing of any kind of liquor from malt within the City and suburbs forever.
Later, in 1464, brewers of that newfangled drink, called `beer', complained to the powers that be that they felt left out.
Shewen mekly unto youre good Lordshipp and maistershippes the goode folke of this famous Citee the which usen Berebruying within the same that where all Mistiers and Craftys of the said Citee have rules and ordenaunses by youre grete auctoritees for the comon wele of this honorable Citee. . But as for bruers of Bere as yet beene none Ordenaunces nor Rules by youre auctorites made for the common wele of the saide Citee for the demeanying of the same Mistiere of Berebruers For lack of which ordenaunces and rules the people of this Citee myght be gretely disceyved as in mesure of Barells Kilderkyns and Firkyns and in hoppes and in other Greynes the whiche to the saide Mistiere apperteynen Forasmache as they have not ordenaunces ne rules set amongis theym like as other occupacions have. It is surmysed upon theym that often tymes they make theire Bere of unseasonable malt the which is of little prise and unholsome for mannes body for theire singular availe. Forasmoche as the comon people for lacke of experience can not knowe the perfitnesse of Bere aswele as of Ale. Please it therfore youre said lordshipp and Maistershippes the premises tenderly considered to enact and establisshe that from hensforth no man of what degre or condicion he be take upon hym to sill any Bere within the Citee of London by Barelles, Kilderkyns or Firkyns but if the barell and other vessell conteigne after the assize accordyng to an Acte late made by the Auctorite of a Common Councell entred of Recorde in the Cambre of the Yeldhall that is for to say the Barell XXXVI galons, the Kilderkyn XVIII galons and the Firkyn IX galons upon payne of forfature of the same vessell. . And also that no manne nether Freman nor foreyn take upon hym to brewe any Bere or sill any Bere within the Citee aforesaide or brew Bere out of this Citee and sil it unto any personne of the said Citee to be dronke within the same but if it be made of sesonable malt, hoppes and other greynes..
Meanwhile, the Brewers Company was granted the following Arms in 1468, by Clarenceux King of Arms:
Gules, on a chevron argent between three pairs of barley garbs in saltire Or, as many tuns sable hooped Or.
And then, in 1493:
came the Wardens and other good men of the Art or Mistery of Berebruers before the Mayor and Aldermen and presented a petition to the following effect: That two persons submitted to them may be admitted as Wardens of the Fellowship for the ensuing year, and be sworn in the Court of the Guildhall, called the Mayor's Court, to rule the Craft and see that its ordinances are observed; and that henceforth the Rulers and Governors of the Fellowship before going out of office, calling unto them six or eight honest members, shall choose Rulers and Governors for the following year; that anyone so chosen and refusing to take office shall forfeit 40/-, one half to go to the Chamber and the other to the use of the Fellowship.
That no one of the Craft send any wheat, malt or other grain for brewing to the mill to be ground, nor put any hops in the brewing unless it be clean and sweet, under penalty of 20/-. That the said Rulers, with an officer of the Chamber appointed for the purpose, shall search all manner of hops and other grain four times a year or more, and taste and assay all beer as well as survey all vessels used for beer.
That no member take or embesille the vessles belonging to another member, under penalty. That no member take into his service any one who had been proved by the Fellowship to be an `untrue or a decyvable servaunt in myscarying or mystailing' between his master and his customers..
That the Rulers and Governors duly report to the Chaimberlain the result of every search within 14 days. That they render their accounts to the new Rulers within a month of going out of office. Their petition granted.
H. A. Monckton, A History of English Ale and Beer, London: The Bodley Head, 1966
Return to the Scum Homepage.
Return to the Medieval/Renaissance Brewing Homepage.