When I wrote about the Cloudwater team visit to White Rose Cooperage back in August. I forgot the article came in two parts, so here’s the second half of what was a very enjoyable and interesting day;
It was no coincidence the Cloudwater co-founder, and lead brewer, rocked up at White Rose Cooperage for a visit back in August. The best outfits only use the best products in what they do. Okay, you might argue that White Rose Cooperage is the only place you can go to for a proper independent bespoke service provided by a Master Cooper, whether you’re a brewer, a cider maker or whatever. Thing is, there’s plenty other people using and promoting Alastair Simms services and there were other visitors to the cooperage who’d come a lot farther than Manchester.
One guy who ‘just popped in’ and has done so much to promote Beers from the Wood is Neil Midgley, landlord of ‘Home of Beers from the Wood’ – The Junction, Castleford. The Cloudwater guys were mightily impressed with his wooden mash tun, it’s history and what he was planning to do with it at his Lagentium Brewery, which he’s setting up in the old Horse and Jockey, next door to his existing pub. In the meantime, a date for your diary is 21st September when Wishbone Brewery are doing a ‘From the Wood’ tap takeover and a ‘Meet the Brewer’ session at The Junction. It promises to be a good evening and I don’t think anyone has done a totally wooden cask tap take over before? If you’re reading this Wishbone Brewery, please bring some of that Cloudy with a Chance of Hops collab. brew you did with First Class with you.
It was quite interesting watching people I’ve heard called ‘Hipsters’ mixing with CAMRA & SPBW die hards. Just chatting, never mentioning the ‘C’ word or even real ale and just talking about beer and stuff. I guess if there was a pinnacle of the brewers art it would be to put their carefully crafted beer into one of Alastair’s carefully crafted casks, after fermenting in a wooden vat or being barrel aged in a cask from the wine or spirit industry. That truly would be craft beer.
Anyway, after a nice while stood in the cooperage yard in the sun drinking good ale, or just milling around the workshops chatting and looking at stuff and drinking good ale, the Cloudwater & WTLGI team, clutching full pints in SPBW badged glasses, climbed back on their minibus en route for Leeds. Only thing, once they’d gone, as Alastair politely pointed out, there was still the cask of Vocation Life and Death sat on the workbench, and it wasn’t going to drink itself!
I was well impressed with the first National Woodfest, that SPBW ran in Mr Midgley’s not quite complete Lagentium Brewery Tap House last month. I was even more impressed when festival organiser and SPBW vice chair, Rob Shacklock, told me that they’d already booked venues for 2018, 2019 & 20.
Woodfest 2018 will be on Thursday 5th to Saturday 7th July at the Exchange, North Shields, and is already in the old diary, and if that’s not good enough for you, Woodfest 2019 will be in the magnificent Coopers Hall, in The City of London, one of the oldest and most elegant livery halls and home to The Worshipful Company of Master Coopers, which is quite fitting and proper to my mind. Another date for the diary and hard evidence of the direction that SPBW is taking.
I can’t remember at what stage Rob broke off the conversation, saying something like, ‘it’s time to try this, see what you think.’ Rob’s no stranger to the pub and beer trade and he’s ran his own pubs in the past. He’s actively looking for somewhere at the minute, maybe not a traditional boozer, but definitely something with a cellar. He’s no stranger to brewing neither and he’d made a version of his own recipe, which is brewed as Dark Side of the Toon by Three Kings Brewery. Only thing is, this version of the dark dry stout was a 6.5% variety brewed with Blueberries. Tell you what, he certainly knows how to brew a nice drop of beer.
The second beer he pulled out of his bag was another of his own recipes; Citra Pale 2 at 3.8%. I thought this would make a belting everyday session beer, a full of flavour, but not too strong house beer for a brew pub. Rob agreed and smiled knowingly, something that had been happening to me all day? The only constructive point to come out of the tasting was a need for a bit of Crystal Malt for some added biscuityness. Nevertheless, I think he’s on a winner there.
Now since I arrived at the cooperage there’d been this American guy with a pony tail; polite, quietly spoken, keenly interested, getting involved without monopolising. His name, Chad Colwell, was quite similar to my own. In fact if you add a ‘d’, very similar.
Turns out Chad was on Beercation and he’d already been over in Manchester for a few days. Not to be out done, he disappeared into the cooperage canteen and returned with bottles and cans from the fridge. First one was a bottle of Foothills Jade 7.4% IPA, Mmmmm. Apart from that I can’t tell you too much about it as it was now late afternoon and the Life and Death, and all the other beer was kicking in.
The second beer he’d brought for us from the States, was Bhramari Lorelei 6.9% in a can. I didn’t drink it, cheekily sticking a can in my bag for later. I’m glad I saved it, I really enjoyed the Lorelai which was from a local, to Chad, brewery in Asheville North Carolina. The can design and graphics were equally good too, artwork worthy of framing.
All in all, a brilliant day and a big thank you to Alastair and everyone else who made it so. After all the considered discussion, and my previous encounters with Beer from the Wood then I’m convinced that it’s something we have to promote, and savour and enjoy.
Like Mr Midgley repeatedly says, ‘It adds another dimension’.