The Society for The Preservation of Beers from the Wood
Northern Ireland Branch
ORIGINS OF THE SOCIETY
It all began on the evening of Friday, 6th December, 1963 when seven disgruntled beer drinkers gathered in the Rising Sun in Epsom. Their concern was the growing
decline in both quality and palatability of beer. This they felt was due to the increasing use of gas pressure dispense and the introduction of keg beers. They deplored
the policies of the big brewers who, by forcing the sale of beer from 'sealed dustbins' were threatening the availability of traditional draught beer. The seven drinkers
decided to form a society with the purpose of drawing attention to their plight - and so the SPBW was born.
In 1963 wooden casks were still regarded as being synonymous with traditional draught beer in contrast to the sealed dustbins which contained the processed and
artificially carbonated product. For this reason the name seemed ideal. After a few years, realising that metal casks were rapidly replacing wooden ones, the Society
decided to relax its principles accordingly. Nowadays only about a dozen breweries use wooden casks at all, and the SPBW is more concerned with the contents than the
container, which we accept makes little or no difference to the taste of the beer. However, the original name has been retained for the sake of tradition.
The SPBW may have started with a few beers and bold words but it was clearly involved in a cause dear to British hearts. By the end of the 1960s it had built up into
a fairly large body with 30 - 40 branches and several thousand individual members. There was some low-key campaigning and some useful press publicity during this time,
some resulting from the holding of mock funerals at pubs that had been blighted with dustbin beers. Sadly time passed, people got older and branches closed down.
THE SPBW TODAY
The SPBW recognises naturally-conditioned beer, drawn by gravity, electric pump and traditional handpump, but rejects the use of gas pressure dispense. Thus, our
aims are similar to those of CAMRA, but because of the entirely voluntary set-up the emphasis is on activity within its autonomous Branches. This is mainly of a social
nature, visits to breweries being particularly popular.
The SPBW's National Executive Committee maintains contact with breweries and other relevant bodies on issues of
concern. It fully supports the endangered traditional craft of the cooper and has seen a welcome upsurge in the use of wood in the brew process. It produces a quarterly
magazine Pint in Hand and organises an annual 'National Weekend' which brings members together to areas of special beery interest, has a regular mailout from its online
discussion forum and is active on Facebook and Twitter.
The Northern Ireland branch is especially active and runs a "Pub of the Year" award along with various events and meetings.