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England’s Last Remaining Barrel Maker Insists He's Not On His Last Kegs


‘England’s last remaining barrel maker insists he’s not on his last kegs’

Great headline, but, frustratingly, not one I can claim as my own. But we are grateful to the esteemed journal, the Daily Mirror, for coming up with this cracker, in its interview with England’s only remaining barrel maker.

The decline – or death – of the cooper has been recorded in recent decades. It’s been almost inevitable, as craftsmen died and demand for the wooden barrel dwindled, as brewers moved over to metal casks.

The imminent screening of ‘Stories from hop yards’ has invited stories around English beer and the rapid growth of microbreweries. Could wooden casks be set for a revival? We can only hope so. Certainly, in Scotland, the success of the whisky industry means there are still 200 working coopers. Could we see coopers in Herefordshire again?

In a photo caption story for the Birmingham Post in March 1969, Derek Evans was at Bulmers photographing brothers, Reg and Bert Carpenter. Aged 58 and 60 respectively, they look somewhat older. Derek gives us little information about the Carpenters, though hints at their experienced hand, giving, ‘their expert touch to the ancient craft of coopering, which is being revived at Bulmer’s cider-making factory in Hereford’.

But what a task it must have been, turning out new 30-gallon casks and maintaining ‘100,000 wooden barrels still used by the firm’.

Who remembers the Carpenter brothers? What sort of tools did they use? We would love to hear. PS: Re the perfect headline. I have come up with the occasional eye-grabbing, slightly wincing headline in my time. The most memorable, a feature for winter tyres. What do you think? ‘Fatal Traction’. Pretty good, yes? No?

By Marsha O'Mahony


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