This year, Saturday, June 6 was certainly D-Day in more ways than one.
It was the 40th Anniversary party for Bradford CAMRA held at Jacobs Beer House, where licensee Christina is always prepared to think out of the box and push the envelope with something different. What could she do to add to the great occasion?
Well the answer had sprung into her head at Bradford CAMRA beer festival at the end of February. There were several beers on the festival stillage that were in wooden casks and, prompted by this, a certain bright spark suggested to her to try something never attempted before. Why not approach a local brewery that has casks made of plastic, steel and wood and have a “can you taste the difference” event as part of the anniversary gathering for the local CAMRA branch? Christina thought it was a good idea as did the Branch Chairman. “Leave it with me,” she said.
Well it was not long before she approached local award-winning brewery, Saltaire who agreed to provide New World Red (5.2% ABV) from the same gyle (batch to you and me) in plastic, steel and wood for early June. Oh, the power of persuasion!
The three casks of beer duly arrived at the pub a few days prior to the big day, the beer having been renamed Ruby Ale for the event. Thus it was all systems go for 2pm on D-Day. Not surprisingly, the West Riding branch of SPBW (Society For The Preservation Of Beers From The Wood) had been alerted and in their eagerness some arrived two hours early to guarantee a good seat. Indeed, several beer connoisseurs from over the border in Lancashire had also heard the jungle drums and were some of the first to arrive too.
Three thirds, labelled A, B and C, each dispensed from a different handpump connected to a different cask type containing the same beer, were made available on tasting trays for the price of a pint and we were away off the blocks at 2pm on the dot. The Ruby Ale was a good choice for the comparison, it being a deep red malty ale with firm bitterness & citrus notes from blended Australian, American and New Zealand hops.
There were plenty of takers to try this taste test and there were many puzzled faces. Almost everybody could taste the difference between the beers but were not sure which was which. Most people identified the oaky notes of beer from the wooden cask and some said that the beer from what they thought was the steel cask as compared to the third beer (plastic) that was slightly duller in taste.
To be fair, the beers had not been in the casks for very long which meant that the effect of the wooden cask was not as extreme as when beers are aged. Nevertheless, the differences were noticed by all.
So on a day of memories for many it was appropriately back to the old days of wood. Thanks go to Saltaire Brewery for kindly providing the beer for the taste challenge and to Christina for being bold enough to run with the idea in the first place. It was certainly something different.
And if you left early, A was steel, B plastic and C wood. Were you correct?