Within the Wood


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.


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 produces a quarterly magazine Pint in Hand and organises an annual ‘National Weekend’ which brings members together to areas of special beery interest.

York Branch Info

Annual membership is only £5 and this gets you discounts both online and in various bars. To join get in touch with Marcus at yorkspbw@yahoo.com or via twitter @YorkSPBW
They arrange days out to visit coopers, visit bars that sell wooden aged cask beers,  and organise special ‘Woodfests’ where a range of beers are available exclusively from wooden casks, many of which have been aged in that very cask to add extra flavour. Never the less these beers are exclusives to these festivals as they are great to get along to and try new things. When you become a member you will receive a quarterly magazine called the ‘Pint in Hand’, along with the ability to meet up on the last Thursday of every month at The Falcon Tap, Micklegate, York to discuss your wooden beery findings.

We’ll keep you up to date with any of their outings but at £5 you can’t say fairer than that for an annual membership that gives back so much.