Reviews

A review by Fred Baker

David’s new book celebrates the renaissance of the Junction pub in Castleford, from its reopening in 2010 to 2015.  It’s a fascinating and informative story of two individuals, Neil Midgley and Maureen Shaw, and their bloody-minded determination to “make it work”.  From the start Neil had a vision of selling ‘beers from the wood’, which had somewhat gone out of favour by 2010 with most real ale either in metal casks or, more recently, plastic ones.  Neil used to work as a carpenter with Sam Smiths and so was used to wooden casks.

The Junction on Carlton Street was taken over by Watney Mann in the late 60s and later became part of the Vaux group.  It ended its previous existence as a feeder pub for a nightclub nearby.

The book highlights the importance of the early influence of ‘Tetley Dave’ Parker on Neil and Maureen, and of the involvement later on of brewer Simon Bolderson of Ridgeside Brewery who shared a passion for beer in the wood.  Simon supplied the Junction’s first wooden casked beer – this being Ridgeside Stormbringer in a cask made by Alastair Simms, who was Master Cooper with Wadworth’s Brewery at the time.  Mike Hiscock from Elland Brewery also features in the story.  Sadly ‘Tetley Dave’ and Simon have since passed on.

The book details the anniversary celebrations from the first in 2011 through the ensuing ‘Woodfests’ and the involvement of CAMRA’s Roger Protz at the 4th anniversary do.  Roger had offered to do taste comparisons between a beer in a steel or plastic cask and the same beer that had been in a wooden one.  The results made it clear that, in all cases, the wooden version was more multi-dimensional and distinctive than the alternative.  By then Neil had made the Junction an ‘all wood’ pub by supplying all draught beers in wooden casks.  Neil had bought a number of these casks and breweries would fill his casks for sale in the pub.  By then Ridgeside were only supplying beers from the wood.  By the 5th anniversary Neil and Maureen had bought the nearby Horse & Jockey and so, that year, the woodfest was held in both pubs.  This was notable as the first festival with foreign beer in wood, this being four beers from De Ranke in Belgium.  Four empty pins (4½ gallon casks) had been taken to the continent and filled there.

David’s ‘local’ is 70 miles and three hours away by public transport from his home in Hull.  One has great respect for his determination, and stamina, in producing this most interesting work.  It is also well illustrated photographically.

All profits from sales go to the Alzheimer’s Society.  It is on sale at the Junction for £7.50 or it’s £10 by mail order.  Contact the author on littendavid@littendavid.karoo.co.uk

A review by Helen Balawajder

From Junk to Junction is a new book telling the story of the Junction in Castleford from 2010-2015. It’s written by well-known CAMRA member David Litten, who is perhaps better known as ‘The Bloke from Hull’. His hometown is the last place you’ll find him – he’s always out and about exploring the darkest corners of Yorkshire and the Junction is one of his discoveries.

In 2010 it was reopened by new owners Neil Midgley and Maureen Shaw. To say it was run down is an understatement and they have worked tirelessly to improve it since then. From humble beginnings (an early quiz prize was a jar of beetroot!) it has grown into an award-winning pub with regular festivals and numerous loyal customers. This is due in no small part to its USP: all the real ales are served from wooden casks. Neil has built up his own collection over the years which he sends out to (mainly local) brewers to be filled. There are accounts of tastings (beer in the wood versus that from plastic or metal containers) and Woodfests, as their regular beer festivals are known: one such featured Belgian beers which had been collected in the usual fashion.

The illustrated story is told largely through the reminiscences of customers and suppliers, including lots of interesting little details. It’s obvious that the pub means a great deal to David: “I think of it not only as somewhere special but also as my local pub albeit seventy miles and three hours away by public transport”. His enthusiasm and affection for the place and its proprietors shines through and all I wanted to do after finishing the book was to go and visit.

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