Ashley Thompson - Theakton's apprentice craft cooper
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 January 2015
A North Yorkshire brewery toasts its latest recruit
Next time you decide to roll out the barrel – which could be a while if you’re opting for a healthy, booze-free January – why not raise a glass to Ashley Thompson.
The 19-year-old from Thornton Watlass, between Masham and Bedale, has just secured himself a unique position with T&R Theakston, one of the UK’s best-known breweries, as the country’s only brewery-employed apprentice craft cooper.
The former Bedale High School student, who has a Level 1, 2 and 3 qualification in carpentry and joinery, will serve his four-year apprenticeship under the tutelage of Theakston’s existing craft cooper Jonathan Manby.
During his apprenticeship, Ashley, who has worked for legendary Mouseman joiners Robert Thompson, will learn the intricacies of an ancient trade, which is being kept alive by the brewery, known world-wide for its Old Peculier ale.
‘Working with wood and for a brewery is my dream job!’ said Ashley. ‘When I was ten, I saw Jonathan demonstrating his coopering skills at the Great Yorkshire Show. It was a magical experience and one I have never forgotten.
‘When I saw that Theakston’s were advertising for an apprentice craft cooper to work under him, I couldn’t believe my luck and applied immediately. I’m thrilled to have been chosen for the job, even if it is a daunting thought that I am the only brewery-employed apprentice craft cooper in the entire country.
‘I’m now looking forward to learning the trade from Jonathan and, hopefully, in four-year’s time, becoming a fully-fledged craft cooper.’
T&R Theakston executive director Simon Theakston said the Masham-based brewery was very proud to be keeping the traditional art of coopering alive and thriving.
‘Ashley joins a long and distinguished line of apprentice craft coopers here at Theakston’s, and he is extremely lucky to be learning from Jonathan Manby, who is an outstanding exponent of the craft,’ he said.
‘Traditionally-brewed British craft ale is becoming more popular, year in and year out, and we are creating new, exciting beers to tempt the taste buds of both existing and new customers alike.
‘Each year Jonathan makes hundreds of casks – from four-gallon pins through to 36-gallon barrels. Next year he and Ashley will be making considerably more as we continue to increase production.’