A TOTAL of 500 new stainless steel barrels were rolled into a brewery this week to replace aluminium casks in use at the firm since the 1960s.

The £35,000 investment by Arkell’s Brewery is intended to help maintain the quality and consistency of the beer.

Each barrel costs about £60, has a capacity of 72 pints and has the brewer’s name embossed on the collar.

Traditionally, beer barrels were made by a cooper out of wood and bound by metal hoops – and the Arkell’s cooper’s fireplace is still clearly in evidence at the brewery today, next to the brewery chimney.

Aluminium barrels were introduced in the 1960s because they were 30 per cent lighter and easier for the draymen to carry and easier to clean, improving the beer’s consistency.

Head brewer Alex Arkell said: “Our old barrels have transported beer to all our pubs and many free houses for decades across the South of England and it’s time for them to retire from active service.

“We’re delighted with our delivery of brand new Arkell’s branded barrels.”


  • A ‘barrel’ originally referred to the volume of beer, not the container in which it was kept. In mediaeval times a barrel was 36 imperial gallons.
  • Wooden casks were made of vertical strips of oak (staves), held tightly together by horizontal steel hoops. To be watertight, the staves were tapered and bowed, making a belly shape – allowing them to be rolled easily – and lifted more easily too.
  • Wood barrels were used up to the mid-20th century, when steel casks were introduced, followed by aluminium containers.