Pub Talk

The Craft of Making Beer Barrels

After a steady decline, are British coopers ready for a resurgence?

The Craft of Making Beer Barrels

Alastair Simms, of the White Rose Cooperage, starts each day at 6 a.m. with a mug of Yorkshire tea. It’s a departure from his early days as a cooper. “We used to come in, lay our tools down at 5 o’clock and go across to the brewery and have a couple of pints,” says Simms, one of just a handful of coopers still working in the British beer industry. “And then we’d start work!”

Wooden barrels have been used for the storage of liquids and other materials for 2,000 years, and coopering was once a central and extensive role in a British brewery.

There was a steady decline through the 20th century as beers stopped being long-aged, transported and served in wood. This coincided with the increasing use of easy-to-maintain stainless steel, which made the job of a brewery cooper obsolete in all but a handful of traditional breweries, meaning this longtime brewing craft was barreling toward extinction.

Now, as brewers’ interest in wood barrels and tanks increases, is there hope for a resurgence in coopering for the beer industry?

Read the rest of the article on All About Beer Magazine and find out whether the trade is dying or experiencing a resurgence.

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