Master Cooper Alastair Simms was just putting the finishing touches to the last of a stack of brand new casks when I walked in to Whitehorse Cooperage at Thorp Arch this morning. The natty green paint going around the cask heads looked rather smart, I thought.
‘Where’s these going?’ I asked. ‘Deepest Lancashire’, he replied, ‘if you hang around a bit you’ll meet ‘em.’
So I did and met up with Carmelo Pilliteri, Director and Brewer at Northern Whisper Brewing Co of Rossendale along with beer writer Mark Briggs of Briggs on Beer and Real Ale up North fame. He was quite taken with his beerleeds.co.uk pin badge!
Alastair had fashioned nine Metric Firkins, that’s an eleven gallon cask to me and you, from larger used wine and spirit casks; four Red Wine, four Whisky and one Rum barrel. I asked Carmelo what they were going to be used for? He told me they would start filling them next week. The beer would then be served ‘from the wood’ in their Hill End Mill Brewery tap room on a permanent basis.
Carmelo said it was going to be something of an experiment to see which beers suited the wood and to discover the ‘added dimension’ the spirit casks would give. He was definitely going to give punters the opportunity of a Wood v Modern cask taste test of the same ales and reckoned that their wheat beers would really suit the woodies.
I’ve been very impressed with Northern Whisper Brewing Co since I first tried Blighty, a British Bitter brewed with a modern take, at Tapped Leeds in the summer, the sort of thing that makes you re-appreciate the style. It must have been one of the first casks that got to Leeds because Carmelo told me they only started commercial production in June on their 10BBL kit. I’ve drank it since and it seems to be consistently very good.
I also had a few pints of Northern Whisper Brewing Co Yammerhouse, a very drinkable APA in The Junction, Castleford when I met up with the Woodfest18 organisers from SPBW a couple of weeks ago too. An APA is probably not something a lot of people would associate with wooden casks, but I can tell you it really complements the style and true to form, the beer was first rate.
Obviously Carmelo has been talking to Neil Midgley because the Metric Firkin is his ‘go to’ cask for daily use in The Junction. No surprises where Carmelo and Mark’s next stop was going to be then. Tempting though it was, I had to turn down the offer of a lift. But before they set off I supervised loading the van, including all the off-cuts from the original casks, all packed into malt sacks to be burnt on the Northern Whisper Brewing Co tap room log burner.
I reckon if you get down there in a couple of weeks they will be pouring from the Whitehorse Cooperage woodies and you can sit and enjoy your pint in front of the fire. I can guarantee you both the beer and the aroma will be wonderful.