A Yorkshire brewery’s apprentice cooper is a step closer to joining a select band of specialist wood workers keeping one of the country’s oldest traditions alive.
Euan Findlay, who was indentured to T&R Theakston Ltd in Masham three years ago, has passed his trade exams after impressing time-served industry experts with his cask-making skills.
In just under a year’s time and under the watchful eye of his mentor – Theakston craft brewery cooper Jonathan Manby – the 22-year-old will take part in an ancient right-of-passage ceremony called “trussing in”.
For the final act of his apprenticeship, Euan will have to make a wooden hogshead cask. And, if it meets Jonathan’s exacting standards, Euan will then climb into the 54-gallon container, be covered in beer and the cask rolled around the brewery yard in front of his colleagues.
To pass his trade exams, Euan, from Bedale, had to make a nine-gallon wooden cask, known as a firkin, and repair a wooden stave, all done under the critical gaze of two coopers from Fisher’s Cooperage in Glasgow.
Having reached this stage, Euan is now entitled to join one of London’s oldest Livery companies, and become a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Coopers.
One of the objectives of The Coopers’ Company – which received its first royal charter in 1501 – is to support traditional wooden cask making, which has been a declining craft in England.
T&R Theakston Ltd executive director Simon Theakston said: “Our Masham brewery boasts one of the country’s few remaining working cooperages, which is where Euan is learning this wonderful craft.
“Theakston’s is fully committed to continuing the coopering tradition and we are delighted that Euan has successfully passed his trade exams. Over the last three years, he has proved a very diligent apprentice and has learned the skills required to become a craft cooper from his teacher and mentor, Jonathan Manby.
“I’m equally delighted that he is entitled to become a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Coopers. It’s a great feather in his cap.”
Mr Theakston added: “The popularity of specialist cask ale is rising year on year, and it is our aim to continue to supply even more of our famous beers to pubs and clubs in traditional casks.
“This is what our customers are demanding and it’s a challenge both Jonathan and Euan are relishing.”
Euan said: “I’m thrilled to have passed my trade exam and I’m extremely grateful to Simon, Jonathan and everyone at Theakston’s for giving me this rare and fantastic opportunity.
“I’ve loved every minute of my apprenticeship so far, and I’m excited to continue learning from Jonathan as my formal training draws to a close.
“The Theakston name has been synonymous with brewing traditional ales for nearly 200 years, and my role is to assist Jonathan in making the casks that the legendary beers are stored in.
“I am honoured to be one of the country’s few remaining apprentice brewery craft coopers, and equally honoured to be learning my trade at Theakston’s.”