Wood you believe it? Pub leads ale revival

Neil Widgley with a pint in the cellar with the wooden barrels of beer.
Neil Widgley with a pint in the cellar with the wooden barrels of beer.
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A real ale revival is seeing traditional brews and historic methods being brought back to the masses, led by a Castleford pub.

The Junction pub is thought to be among those leading the way in bringing traditional real ale back to the communities it once served, having spent around £8,000 on wooden beer casks to replace the plastic and steel used by many.

The award-winning pub is a leading light in the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, which prides itself on using handmade wooden casks, and claims to be the only UK pub selling all of its ales from wood.

The renaissance of real ale was initially seen as due to the ‘fashionable middle class’, according to recent Leeds Metropolitan University (LMU) research. But The Junction is hoping its return to wood will help return “a taste of what our fathers used to drink”.

Landlord Neil Midgley said the demise of heavy industry in Castleford has dramatically changed local routines.

He said: “Real ale was a working man’s drink and then it was taken off them. In a way we are reclaiming it and taking the middle class drinkers with us.” The 56-year-old has invested in 102 handmade wooden casks from Wetherby’s White Rose Cooperage and sends barrels out to breweries for them to fill.

Professor Karl Spracklen oversaw LMU research which found real ale was being seen as more authentic than lager by “middle class urban hipsters”.He said: “There has always been that tradition for people in Yorkshire and there is probably still enough of that working class hardcore real ale fan base that can make this a success.” He added: “It’s a really great thing that the two cultures can come together.”