In honour of Wales reaching 100 breweries in 2017, I will be seeking to review/profile 100 Welsh beers which you should try, with the intention of covering 100 different Welsh breweries… With no further ado, here are the first ten!
Brains - Dark
A fitting place to start. This beer is something of a Welsh - or at least a south Walian - icon. A beer of historic significance, harking back to the days of heavy industry, Brains Dark - a traditional dark mild - was a favourite amongst miners, steel workers and dockers. Some might consider the dark mild an unfashionable beer style, but Brains Dark is a cultural significant beer which still enjoys relatively high popularity. At 3.5% on cask, this is a solid session beer. Flavour-wise, notes of coffee, dark chocolate and a hint of liquorice give an interesting palate.
Conwy - Clogwyn Gold
Clogwyn Gold from leading North Wales brewery Conwy is a traditional golden ale with a modern twist, utilising high quality North American hops. This beer has a very pleasant nose with tropical juice, kiwi fruit and grapefruit. The palate is well balanced with fruity and floral notes giving a refreshing character. A slight hint of sweetness leads to a mellow finish.
West by Three - Gose 4 Ways - Sea Salt, Seaweed and Lime
The Gose beer style originates in the German town of Goslar near Leipzig. Something of a curiosity, this wheat beer is traditionally brewed using coriander and salt, with sour and salty flavours coming though. Small-batch brewers West by Three’s take on this style is excellent. Citrus fruit, soured fruits and a note of sea salt all come through on the nose. The palate is very interesting… the first taste is of the sea, salty and fresh. This is followed by a cutting note of citrusy sourness, giving a sharp, tangy flavour.
Tenby - Black Flag Rum Porter
Tenby’s excellent Black Flag Rum Porter is a very memorable beer. The nose is rich with sweet molasses giving a strong rum-like scent, with a smokey note also coming through. The flavour is malty with a background of coffee and tasty little hints of raisins and dark rum. A fantastic porter, well worth seeking out.
Monty’s - Dark Secret
This beer comes from mid-Wales brewers Monty’s Brewery. Dark Secret is a gluten-free dark ale with a sweet malty nose and a full-bodied rich palate. Main flavours are dark chocolate and black coffee with a notable burnt bitterness to the finish.
6. Untapped - Ember
Raglan-based brewers Untapped’s Ember is a seasonal brew, a winter ale to be precise. This warming beer brings delicious flavours of dark cherry, coffee, liquorice along with a rich earthiness. The nose also has a hint of smoke, and the finish is well rounded. Just what you want on a cold winter’s evening.
7. Pipes - Pineapple Berliner Weisse
The Berliner Weisse is a well-known sour beer style… So sour, in fact, that often in Berlin you would drink them with the addition of a sweet cordial to take the edge off. This offering from Cardiff craft brewery Pipes is first class: tart, tangy and puckering with a refreshing sharpness. An excellent example of a sour beer, this is particularly thirst-quenching on a warm day. The low ABV of 3.7% makes this a very sessionable drink.
8. Heavy Industry - Pigeon Toed Orange Peel
An unusual name for an innovative beer, from North Walian brewers Heavy Industry. This is a Hefeweizen style beer, which is essentially a yeasty German wheat beer. This is a great example of the style, with notes of orange peel and coriander coming through along with a background hint of spice. Fruity aromas on the nose. This is a very well-balanced wheat beer.
9. Big Hand - Appaloosa
Big Hand are another excellent North Walian brewery and Appaloosa is an excellent American pale ale. The nose is floral and sweet - flavours which carry through to the palate, with hints of summer fruits also coming through. This crisp beer is very refreshing and is well-hopped with Centennial and Mosaic hops form North America bringing bitter balance to the malty body.
10. Brew Monster - Leviathan
Brew Monster are relative new kids on the block, although the Cwmbran brewers boast impressive brewing pedigree and experience. The brewery specialises in IPAs, of which Leviathan is a shining example. The nose bursts with scents of berry, flowers and fruit. The palate is bright with tropical flavours such as kiwi and lychee, with dry orange peel coming to the fore on a hoppy bitter finish.
For the first time since probably the 1930s, Wales now has over 100 active breweries. The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Welsh micro-breweries, with growth outstripping all other parts of the UK apart from London . Over the past couple of years, it has regularly been predicted that Wales would soon break the 100 brewery barrier, with 88 independent breweries recorded in 2015 . It now appears that we have reached that landmark figure. Below, we have listed all the active breweries in Wales – giving a total of 115. Four of those breweries are not yet brewing commercially (denoted by *). However, even discounting those 4 companies still leaves a total of 111 breweries operating in Wales. The geographic footprint of the breweries is impressive, with every local authority area in Wales (yes, all 22) having at least one brewery! In terms of size and scale, the list is very diverse – including long-standing giant Brains alongside newly established micro
As we approach the end of 2017 it seems like a good time to reflect upon the year. We've seen an exciting year of change on the Welsh beer scene and it would be impossible to capture every single development here. With that in mind, I've decided to list a few of the highlights below: Tiny Rebel First of all we start with arguably Wales’s biggest craft brewery, Tiny Rebel. It’s been a big year for the Newport brewers, moving into a state of the art new premises in Rogerstone, enabling a significant expansion in production and the development of an onsite bar and brewery tours. A slight down-note for Tiny Rebel has been the recent case involving the branding of their Cwtch beer. However, an optimist would note the significant publicity and exposure the brewery has received off the back of this episode… In spite of this recent blip, there’s no doubt that 2017 has been a great year for Tiny Rebel. Grey Trees The awards have been pouring in for the Aberdare br