STEPHEN LEWIS looks forward to a fund-raising pub crawl with a difference

DO you know a good beer from a bad one? Can you tell when a keg is off, or the head's too foamy? Then you're summonsed. The Sheriff of York - aka former primary school headteacher Verna Campbell - needs you to help her check on the 'price and wholesomeness of the city's ale'.

Yes, you've got it: York's annual 'Assize of Ale' is almost upon is.

Since medieval times, it has been traditional for there to be an 'assize' of the city's public houses every year to make sure unscrupulous landlords don't cheat on quantity or price - and to check that their ale is drinkable.

It has been the sheriff's job to do this each year since the city's first two sheriffs were appointed in 1396, during the reign of King Richard II.

Verna is the city's 1056th sheriff - and she's not about to shirk the responsibility.

On August 4, she and the Lord Mayor of York Cllr Keith Orrell will be leading 'inspection tours' of the city's pubs. They'll each be taking their own route, visiting five pubs along the way before winding up at Brew York in Walmgate - where there will be food, more beer and some live jazz.

And they need 'Sergeants' - concerned citizens willing to help them with the serious businesses of tasting the beer along the way...

Of course, these days its more of a genteel pub crawl than a real inspection - though one with a genuine sense of tradition.

This year's assize officially begins at the Mansion House with the reading of a proclamation at 2pm on Saturday August 4.

But before that, there will be a pillory and stall in St Helen's Square. And the York Waites may be on hand to provide some courtly music. Medieval costume is optional.

Despite everything, there is a very serious side to the Assize, says Verna.

It has become one of the civic party's main fund-raising events of the year - with all the money raised going to the Lord Mayor's charities.

"So we'll be raising some money for good causes, raising the profile of the charities - and having a good time all at the same time," she says.

What's not to like?

  • To book tickets for the Assize of Ale at £12.00 per person (which includes the Assize, plus jazz and food at Brew York in the evening), visit

Money will also be raised through collections on the day.


The three charities which will benefit from money raised during the Assize of Ale are:

• York Blind and Partially Sighted Society

• The Island, which mentors children and young people in York

• York Music Hub, which provides opportunities for children and young people to learn music