Beer Blog

A Big Thank You from SPBW & Woodfest

Trips to The Junction, Castleford are getting to become a habit these days, despite taking what seems like all day get there on the bus. I’m hoping to get over on Thursday September 21st for the Wishbone Brewery all wooden cask Tap Takeover. The casks have been resting in Neil’s cellar since August 25th getting some of that ‘added dimension’ the wooden casks give the beer.

When I heard that SPBW were presenting Neil Midgley with a commemorative cask for supporting Woodfest2017 I jumped at the opportunity to pop over. I’ve got quite adept at crossing the busy York Road at Killingbeck Asda, when I change buses on my way home with the best part of a gallon on board. I can never actually remember carrying out the manoeuvre? I hope I’m pressing the buttons on the crossing and not just sauntering out across all seven lanes?

As I walked down Albion St towards the pub I saw the familiar face of Rob Shacklock of SPBW and Woodfest2017 fame stood outside the pub having a ciggie, ‘Not a word, Neil knows nothing. He just thinks I’ve called in for a few beers on my way back from London.’

As a few other familiar faces appeared, an odd one or two nearly let the secret slip to Neil, who had now appeared after single handedly fitting a sizeable Velux skylight in the toilets at his Lagentium Brewery Tap House.

Presentation Cask-1

‘Alastair’s setting off from the Cooperage now Rich, how long will it take from Wetherby, half an hour?’

‘Hour and a half if he’s coming on the bus Rob!’

Just before Master Cooper Alastair Simms arrived in his White Rose Cooperage van, Neil got politely told to go and get his shirt changed as he might be getting his photo took, and while he was doing so the cask was smuggled into the bar. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen grown men smuggling a cask into a public bar, then trying to act all nonchalant without the landlord noticing that it’s there?

Anyway, after carefully placing the cask on an upturned chair balanced on a table, the presentation began. Basically, a  big thank you from SPBW for hosting Woodfest2017. If you’re wondering, the cask is an Anker, holding 12 gallons, a size that went out of general use in the late 1940’s. Neil will tell you that, for his requirements in his pub, a Firkin (9 gall.) is too small and a Kilderkin (18 gall.) too large. Neil owns quite an assortment of casks which he sends out to brewers to be cleaned, filled and returned as there aren’t many (hardly any) breweries out there who can routinely supply ale in wooden casks.

Over the past few years, I’ve got to know Neil reasonably well. Like, I could tell he was really chuffed with the plaque the Worshipful Company of Coopers presented to him at Woodfest2017. Similarly, I could tell from the way he was caressing the cask that he was equally pleased with this gift. When I say caressing, I kid you not, beers from the wood is a passion with Neil and these casks have names and personalities. He’ll openly admit he talks to them, all females apparently.

If you want any more convincing of Neil’s pleasure in receiving his gift, when I asked him what he thought, his words were, ‘I’m saving that cask for the first gyle.’

I can’t wait for his Lagentium brewery, the only full wooden UK (possibly anywhere?) brewery, to get up and running.

Far too often, and I’m guilty of this, when The Junction and beers from the wood are mentioned, Neil is cited and his lovely partner Maureen Shaw forgotten. Their enterprise really is a partnership and she’s been having a bit of a rough time recently, so I took a nice photo of them both. Thank you Maureen.

Presentation Cask-6

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to sampling a few beers and discussion around various subjects totally unrelated to beer. The beers on offer that Tuesday afternoon were Elland Blonde, Stancil Blonde (3.9%) and Summit (4.5%), all at £3 a pint. I plumped for the single hopped Summit from the Sheffield brewer and really enjoyed it’s piney character.

Neil was apologetic about only having three cask ales on and said he would have put something a bit special on if he had known about the presentation. I didn’t mind one bit, and I fully support his stance of only having three beers on in the early part of the week, rising to six towards the weekend. I wish more places would do the same.

Beer quality, as usual was excellent, with that little extra from the wooden cask that as Neil says, ‘adds another dimension’.

Presentation Cask-5

The presentation took place on Tuesday 12th September at The Junction, Carlton Street, Castleford, WF10 1EE. If you fancy a visit to the pub it’s literally two minutes walk from both bus and train station. They open 2.00pm Monday to Thursday and 12pm Friday to Sunday. Monday and Tuesday is early closing at 8.30pm, but they open until 11pm (and later at weekends) the rest of the week.

4 replies »

  1. I asked this same question of Ronald Pattinson a while back. I have only had a limited amount of beer from wood barrels. I believe it tastes different than from a metal keg. I’ve not seen anything that really explained this difference. (Is it in my head?) Have you seen an explanation or paper on this topic? At the time, RP had not and he is pretty widely read. Curious if this group has anything on it.

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    • I’ve no academic references. You just have to taste the beer. Beer from wooden casks tastes slightly different, as my friend Neil Midgley, is fond of saying, ‘it adds another dimension’. It’s the interaction of the beer with the wood and the previous contents of the cask. Many brewers use sherry/whisky/rum/tequila etc. casks to age and condition their beers in, there is a reaction between all the components and the beer which gives something extra, more complexity. Whisky distillers use the same techniques ageing their product in for e.g. sherry casks. On the other hand what is there in a metal or plastic cask to interact with the beer (or whatever contents the cask contains)?

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      • Yes, with the barrel aged, which is really popular here, the effect is quite dramatic. The keller beer in Germany is the one where I taste the difference, but have a hard time deciding if it is in my head or not. The beer seems to even have a different texture in my mouth. I always wonder if I am imagining the difference or not.

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      • I don’t think you are imagining it. There is a definite difference, subtle, but different, including the mouth feel. I seem to remember they did a ‘taste off’ with Elland 1872 Porter at The Junction with Roger Protz in attendance.

        The Duck and Drake in Leeds regularly has beers from the wood. I can instantly tell the beers that are from the wood without having to look at their tap list.

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