|Beer writer Roger Protz giving a tasting at The Junction|
The Bloke From Hull writes:
In 2010 Maureen Shaw and Neil Midgley reopened The Junction pub on Carlton Street in Castleford. It had been closed for some time and was in a sorry state. They have turned around the pub’s fortunes, making it a place where the past is the future. They have refurbished the pub themselves, and serve superb real ales. Neil set about purchasing over 100 wooden casks from renowned Yorkshire Master Cooper, Alastair Simms with the aim to only serve real ales from wooden casks. He now distributes them to enthusiastic breweries to fill and return with amazing beers to sell in the pub. Mention must be made of the late Simon Bolderson, who was the first to believe in Neil and supply his fantastic beers which really show that “beers in the wood” have that extra something.
Now, as Maureen and Neil celebrate four years of running the pub they have made a dream reality as the real ales served are only from the wood! That is, with the exception due to a one-off request in early June from Roger Protz, one of the world's leading beer writers, historians, lecturers and tasters. Roger had heard about the “Wood Revolution” taking place at the Junction and offered to come and lead a “taste the difference” session where beers from the wood were to be compared with their counterparts in plastic and steel casks.
|Junction landlord Neil Midgely behind the bar|
Appropriately, as the aromas of roasting malts from the local Fawcett’s Maltings drifted across Castleford, it came to pass last Thursday evening that 25 enthusiasts comprising of locals and members of CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale) and SPBW (Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood) gathered in the snug of the Junction with Roger.
He began by outlining the history of beer in the wood and its decline with the advent of metal casks and more latterly plastic ones. First up was Gun Dog Bitter (3.8% ABV) from Wall’s Brewery at Northallerton. A glass from a plastic pin container was followed by a third from a wooden cask, both from the same brew batch. Both were very good but also very different. This was described as a traditional amber bitter with a full hoppy flavour. The wood version had oaky, dry slightly smokey flavours whilst the plastic version was very much fruitier.
After a short break to recharge our glasses Neil gave us all an insight into how real ales in wooden casks continue to develop flavours and it was then on to beer number two. Again from the same batch, Beyond the Pale (4.2% ABV), a golden hoppy bitter from Elland Brewery was tasted from both wood and steel casks. The wooden version was bursting with numerous flavours – peachy, hop resins, biscuity, vanilla hints, fruity, creamy, fully rounded and mellow. We agreed with Roger that although the steel cask version was pleasant it was a much more one-dimensional beer than its wooden counterpart. Roger’s verdict was that the wood version was “fantastic” and that the difference between the two Elland batches was much greater than that between the two from Wall’s.
Another short interval was followed by tasting the superb 1872 Porter (6.5% ABV) from Elland Brewery. This was part of the batch which received the ultimate accolade at the 2013 CAMRA Great British Beer Festival as the “Supreme Champion Beer of Britain”. However this was no ordinary champion beer. It had been aged in a whisky cask for a further period of almost a year. It was the oldest and yet the most alive of the beers tasted during the evening and numerous superlatives went round the room. Roger was heard to say “absolutely amazing”, “a revelation” and “fantastic”.
There followed some informal discussions, photos and indulgence in copious amounts of these and other brilliant beers in the wood from Ridgeside, Five Towns, Axholme, Elland, Hobsons, Wentworth and North Yorkshire breweries. Sadly, the time to leave came around all too quickly, but not before most of us had signed the new visitors book where Roger had written “Great pub, amazing beer, brilliant dedication to beer from the wood”.
What a way to celebrate four years and a dream achieved! Thanks must go to Roger for coming to lead the tasting and proceeds from the event go to his chosen charity Stop the Traffik which campaigns against the modern day slave trade.