LOVERS of real ale are being called to the bar to judge a new beer inspired by an ancient ecclesiastical court.

Masham-based Theakstons have created the brew in honour of 24 local men who, since the 12th-century, have sat in judgment in the town’s Court of the Peculier, created and overseen by the Church.

Known as the Four and Twenty, they still exist today as a charitable organisation, and one of its number is the brewery’s own Jonathan Manby, the last full-time craft cooper operating in the UK.

The brewery’s executive director Simon Theakston said: “We are very proud of our Masham heritage and Theakston Old Peculier - named after the Peculier of Masham – is our most famous beer of all.

“There is usually a story behind the names of our seasonal ales, and this latest creation is no exception.

“We have named it in tribute to those two dozen local men who sat in judgement nine centuries ago, and to the current 24 who now help raise money for local good causes.”

He added: “Because the present Four and Twenty is a charitable organisation, we have decided to donate a proportion of our sales of the ale to charity.”

Among the first to try the new brew – called Theakston Masham Four and Twenty – was the vicar of St Mary’s Church in Masham, the Reverend David Cleeves.

He said: “As the official of the Peculier Court of Masham, I recommend this tasty beer and thank Theakston Brewery for supporting this ‘Peculierly’ good cause.”