My top Five Welsh Beers

The nice people (former colleagues) over at Walesonline asked me to come up with a list of great Welsh beers – they were in no particular order so

Here are my Top Five from the list I have had this year – there seems to be a lot of variants on stouts/porters – and no surprise Tiny Rebel come top – 90% of their beers this year have been amazing

1) Dirty Stop Out, Tiny Rebel: A stunning smoked oat stout which rightfully was Champion Beer of Wales 2013. ABV: 5%

Tiny Rebel Beer : Dirty Stop Out

2) Hadouken, Tiny Rebel: A perfect example of an IPA ABV: 7.4%

3) Shining Tsar, Brains Craft: One of the many excellent ‘craft’ beers from Brains – strong but very drinkable ABV: 7.5%

4) O6 Porter, Otley: Very good porter – also look out for the excellent mOtley Brew. ABV: 6.6%

5) Boilermaker, Brains Craft: A hoppy beer matured with Penderyn whisky-infused oak chips in Penderyn casks. Great on keg or bottled. ABV: 6.5%

of course I’m sure you have had others – so feel free to list your top five in the comments 🙂


Cardiff brewery Brains pigs out with a Bacon Beer for GBBF

When I heard that Cardiff brewery Brains are making a Bacon flavoured beer I Was interested and now they have given some more info then more so

Shame Iam not going to GBBF this year -now I wonder if they used smoked bacon but I do hope they have it in a few of their local bars here on it’s release – not 100% sure on the name – but will give it a go as Bacon and Beer are normally top of my list of things I love (next to sheds)

Brains returns to the GBBF with a double chocolate and bacon porter

Wales’ leading brewer is preparing to make its seventh visit to Britain’s biggest beer festival with their biggest ever range of beers including a brand new double chocolate and bacon porter inspired by a trip to the States.

A-Pork-Alypse was brewed by Brains’ Head Brewer, Bill Dobson, after a trip to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Bill Dobson said: ‘‘The range of beer styles, flavours and ingredients used in the beers at the GABF was incredible and the one that really stood out used bacon in the brew. I came back from The States wanting to brew my own, and after a few trial and errors with the quantity of bacon I brewed A-Pork-Alypse, a double-chocolate and bacon porter. A grist of roast and smoked malts with freshly grilled bacon added to the boil along with cacao nibs gives the beer a smoky flavour alongside the chocolate.”

A-Pork-Alypse will be available on the bar along with three other beers from the Brains Craft Brewery. Bragging Rights, brewed to an ancient Welsh style called ‘bragawd’; Atlantic White, a white IPA and Dissolution, a Belgian dubbel brewed with Pete Brown as part of the Continental Beer Challenge.

Another experimental brew will also be available on an extremely limited basis of one firkin a day. Low-Hanging Fruit pays reverence to one of Brains most loved beers – an easy-drinking dark mild with a wild twist of being soured with Morello cherries.

Brand Manager, Ian Beattie, said: “The ale market is changing and one of the drivers is consumers demanding choice, so again this year we have extended our range of beers that we take to the GBBF. While we still have a great demand for our national favourites from our long-standing core range of beers, we also use the festival as a showcase for the Brains Craft Brewery and our brewing credentials as well as use it as a platform to gain feedback from the ale consumer. A-Pork-Alypse is a beer that we couldn’t have brewed before having the Brains Craft Brewery, which enables us to trial and experiment with new recipes and push the boundaries to challenge some of the pre-conceptions of a traditional brewer. I am sure it will divide opinion at the show.”


Pub News: Landlord of the City Arms Cardiff is now looking after the Park in Barry

Cardiff Camra Pub of the year City Arms Landord Chris Partridge has headed to the wilds of Barry to look after the Park ( , which Brains is hoping to turn into a Real Ale mecca in the home of Gavin & Stacy.

I have only been to the park twice – and only once saw a massive fight – so hopefully the pub has mellowed over the years and the beer drinkers of Barry will appreciate quality Ale.

So good luck to Chris and the team there – but we hope to see him back at the City Arms very soon.

My mate Wakey was on the ground on opening night which looked busy and said there was a good atmosphere and great to see some proper ale at his local for a change.

will any of the City Arms regulars be making the trip down?


Will you be drinking the strong ABV beers at the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival

As tomorrow is the start to one of the highlights on the Welsh brewing and drinking calender Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival– I thought I would look at the ales that always seem to end my afternoon on the Friday at the festival – the ones over 6% ABV – but after my recent trip to Bruges I think I could handle a few of these earlier 😉 (ok maybe in thirds)

Some really strong ales this year , with Otley Brewing shouting the loudest with a shed storming Odessa 9.7 with Heart of Wales High as a Kite 9.5 coming in close – it’s left to two other Otley Beers to follow, the now classic Otley O8 8 and Otley Motley Brew 7.5

The new boys on the block from Newport Tiny Rebel have a very respectablel Hadouken IPA 7.4 then the Ponty boys are back in the race with their lovely Porter – Otley O6 Porter 6.6   but the dark horses are back again, with Cardiff brewery Brains showing off their Strong Ale 6.5 after a great entry last year.

So if you are going for the the strong ales – remember to take your time – and don’t get over excited like me – it’s all about pacing yourself 🙂

Here is the full list as nicked from but in ABV order


Cardiff Pub the Vulcan to move to National History Museum St Fagans

from Brains- shame it’s going to be few years – maybe they will fix the outside loos by then 😉

Wonder if they will serve old Brains recipes ales in there (hint Strong Ale, 6.5%) – hope they keep it going as a pub and not a shell just as an exhibition.


Welsh Bloggers Outside the Pub

Welsh Bloggers Outside the Pub by Welsh Icons (Dom)

Historic Cardiff Pub Saved for the Nation

Following the decision to close the Vulcan Hotel, Cardiff, the property’s owners Marcol Asset Management Limited, have agreed to donate it to St Fagans: National History Museum in order to preserve the building for the Nation.

The Vulcan was built in 1853 to serve the new, mainly Irish, community in Adamsdown then known as New Town. The exterior of the two storey building is virtually unchanged, the lower half of the façade being tiled in green and white and the upper floor faced in brick.

With the agreement of Marcol and licensees Gwyn and Sandra Lewis, the tenants, SA Brain & Co Ltd, today (Friday 4th May) closed the Vulcan. St Fagans staff will now move in to measure, photograph and document the building, before dismantling and placing it in storage.

The Vulcan
The Vulcan by DJLeekee
Scott Waddington, Chief Executive at Brains said:

“It is with regret that we confirm that the Vulcan pub has closed as of today. As we have previously stated, and despite attempts to attract more customers, the pub is no longer commercially viable for either Brains or the tenant who operated the pub.

“We have found ourselves the target of negative publicity as a result of us having to sell a pub due to a compulsory purchase order to accommodate the St David’s 2 development some four years ago. In essence, we had no other option than to sell the pub. We have kept the pub trading over this period despite declining customer numbers and therefore income. The uncertainty surrounding the future of the premises has also made justifying any significant investment in the pub unrealistic.

“Brains continue to invest in the City, with some of the most recent refurbishments being Greenwood & Brown, The Duke of Wellington and The City Arms which has recently won CAMRA, Cardiff pub of the year.

“The Vulcan is an important part of our history, which is why we have been working with its owner, Marcol, and the National History Museum, to relocate the building to St Fagans and preserve the history of the pub for the future.”

Gwyn and Sandra Lewis, licensees, added:

“We, and our family, would like to thank all the customers who have supported the pub since we took over two years ago. We look forward to visiting St Fagans and will have good memories of the short time we were at the Vulcan.”

Mark Richards, Deputy Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales said:

“The Vulcan hotel will be a welcome addition to the collection of historical buildings at St Fagans. We are grateful to Marcol for donating the building and giving us the opportunity to save and preserve this important part of Cardiff’s heritage for the nation and to tell some of the area’s rich history.”

“We are also very grateful to Brains for their willingness to assist us as we ensure the historical accuracy of the fittings used in the Vulcan before we eventually rebuild at St Fagans.”

Due to current commitments, work on rebuilding the Vulcan is not expected to start for several years. In the meantime, Museum curators will work on an interpretation strategy to decide on how and which period to display the building.”

An appeal will be made for photographs, objects and stories relating to the Vulcan and its history.

Background on The Vulcan pub:

1853 The Vulcan opens

2008 Brains sells The Vulcan to Marcol (Compulsory Purchase Order as part of the St David’s 2 development plans)

2009 Brains agreed to operate the pub until May 2012

2009 – 2012 Marcol, National Museum Wales & Brains discuss the relocation of the Vulcan to St Fagans Museum.


Good news for craft beer fans in Cardiff – Brains to open new craft brewery

Hopefully they will open it up to beer drinkers community to help choose or even brew new beer – Iam thinking hoppy beers to give certain scottish beers or Amercian beers a run for their money.

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

From SA Brain

Welsh brewer SA Brain and Co Ltd today announced that it is to extend production facilities at the Cardiff Brewery by installing a new craft brewery.

The brewery will complement Brains’ existing plant and enable them to brew a diverse range of craft cask, keg and bottled beers.

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

Bill Dobson, Head Brewer at Brains, explains: “The beer market is always changing and there is a growing interest in more diverse beers and different beer styles. We have seen this through the growing popularity of our seasonal ales and a demand for a wider choice on the bar, especially from the younger drinker.”

“This new brewery means we will be able to meet these growing needs by brewing on a much smaller scale, at the same time developing our capability to innovate new products and to experiment with limited editions and one-offs.”

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

David Bonney, Commercial Director at Brains, added: “This investment demonstrates our commitment to the development of our cask and keg beers – a key element of our growth strategy – enabling us to remain at the forefront of new product development.”

Brains hopes to have the new plant up and running by the end of March 2012. The company will continue to brew its range permanent and seasonal beers – which includes the renowned SA, the award winning SA Gold and the legendary Dark – at the Cardiff brewery.

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour


Cardiff Brew wins World’s Best Dark Mild Ale

My local brewery and my go to pint (2nd beer I ever drank 20 years ago, 1st was Buckley SBB) and I still have a pint of at least once a week.

Brains Dark, has been named the ‘World’s Best Dark Mild Ale’ and ‘Europe’s Best Dark Mild Ale’ at the World Beer Awards 2011.

Well done to all at S A Brain – it’s in some great company some of the other beers in the groups are brilliant – Rodenbach Grand Cru 6% & Thornbridge Bracia 9% to name just two.

The award means that it now ranks as one of the world’s 50 best beers.

An international panel of judges described the beer as having a “fresh tobacco nose with liquorice and burnt fruit. Toasty, not too sweet. Nice and dry. Light hops. Coffee, chocolate, bitter hops and roasted grain. Dry Finish.”

Richard Davies, sales and marketing director at Brains said: “We’re thrilled that Dark has won such a high profile award against the best international competition. It proves that regional family brewers can compete with the biggest and best in the world.”

Dark was the heart of Brains for most of its history. It dominated production at the Old Brewery and up until the 1980’s was Brains’ best-selling ale. Today the beer is sold in pubs and supermarkets throughout the UK.

For more information


Brains Original Stout

Brains have a new bottled beer Brains Original Stout (4.1%) that they have brewed just for Tesco

Iam a bit fan of bottle stout and looking forward to tasting it – I saw it in my local Tesco already today – but bought a couple of bottles of their IPA (as it was BOGOF)

Brains Original Stout

Brains Original Stout

A new edition to the multi award winning collection from Brains Brewery. This is a classic, full bodied, flavoursome stout, brewed to an original recipe. It has bold chocolate aromas and complex roasted malt flavours with a balanced bitter taste that give a refreshing beer which is a perfect accompaniment to a hearty stew or a classic roast dinner.

Welsh brewer S.A Brain and Co Ltd has secured a deal with Tesco to supply 600 stores throughout the UK. From mid August Brains Original Stout – which was developed exclusively for Tesco – will be available in all larger stores, making it Brains’ biggest supermarket deal.

The brewer currently supplies all national branches of Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, as well as all Welsh Tesco stores. Paul Harvey, Head of Take Home, explains: “We’ve been working with Tesco in Wales for several years and, more recently, secured a deal to supply 100 English stores with SA Gold. This latest agreement will step change our business with Tesco in line with our ongoing objective of becoming a major player in the off trade market.”


Cardiff brewery Brains rebrands it’s cask ale clips

Cardiff brewery S A Brain are rebranding their real ale clips – I’m a bit late on this as Arfur mentioned it last week, but of course he just drinks and writes all the time from Brains pubs;)

I seem to blog about a lot about this brewery, but I suppose they are my local large brewer and do create a consistently good beer and Dark is my beer of choice if there are no guests on.

With all new things it does take a while to get accustomed to change especially for us real ale drinkers who are sometimes stuck in our ways.

But they are snazzy and dragony (?) so it’s getting the Welshness of the brand across, so they may grow on me.. but they go look like car ornaments a bit with the aluminium style tail – what do you think?

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

The current clip badges

Welsh brewer S.A Brain and Co Ltd, famed for its much-loved SA, has completed a major re-brand of its cask ales as part of a wider plan to grow sales and market share throughout the UK.
The company will showcase the new designs at the Great British Beer Festival in August, with an on trade roll-out following soon after.

Brains began the re-brand process 12 months ago after identifying that the cask market was changing and product brand design would be even more important to future success. Richard Davies, sales and marketing director at Brains explained: “Cask ale is growing its share of the total beer market and the development of our range of cask beers is a key element of our growth strategy going forward, both within Wales and across the UK.

“Our current cask design has been in market since 2002 so, with more interest and competition in the category, we felt the time was right to modernise.”

After a pitch process, Brains recruited integrated branding and design agency Blue Marlin. Their brief: to evolve the brands, modernise the look, and create a unique design; all with the aim of engaging with new consumers and appealing to a wider demographic.


St David’s Day – A tour of the Brains Brewery & drinking in Cardiff pubs what could go wrong – nothing

When you get off a train at Cardiff central on a Monday morning after a rugby international you are greeted first with the sound of the dive bombing seagulls from the River Taff, then the more welcoming smell of beer being brewed from the Cardiff brewery that is S A Brains – it’s a smell that reminds people of many things, for me it takes me back to my first pint of SA in the Athletic club in Pontyclun, many years a go.

st davids day - brains tour

Brains are synonymous with the city and it’s beers are seen as a great Welsh traditional not only to rugby fans that descend on the city from the valleys in their droves – but the Kardiffians – who luvs half a dark.

I was invited by Brains to spend the afternoon of St David’s Day with them, not only to celebrate our Patron Saints Day but to celebrate the 1st Birthday of Brains Black , their Welsh Stout, which is doing very well against a certain Irish brand.

The day started well with a tour of the Brewery tour with Bill Dobson, the head brewer, he was very passionate about their bottled SA gold, which I have overlooked a bit in the past – but think it will be a great summer addition to my beercupboard.

I had visited the former brewery on St Mary Street before it closed in the late 1990’s but this was my first visit into the heart of the current brewhouse, which is on the site of the former Bass/Hancock Brewery – of course one my fellow visitors Arfur Daley could tell you the proper history.

st davids day - brains tour

We started at the top in the mill and tasted some raw ingredients – why can’t all pubs have malted Barley or even oats on the bar (like the City Arms) for you to nibble on.

st davids day - brains tour

The tour carried going through the whole process of brewing the mashing and Fermentation, but you lot know the process better than me.

The fermenting stage was a highlight, the smell of the Dark bubbling away in the tanks was great, some got bananas in the air but all I could smell a sweet/sour flavor like a lambic, of course Dark is not that at like that in its finished state… so maybe it was the heady aromas in the brewery that confused me.

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

The casking area was hive of activity and their even had a shed, my two loves beer and sheds in one place – yes this was a perfect day.

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

The tour was completed with a session of their beers in the sample cellar where the products are checked from each batch created.

This is a dream for any beer geek, seeing the barrels stacked up to be tasted being poured by the head brewer – all the main Brains Cask range were on offer and tasted great straight from the barrel.

Brains Bitter (3.7% ABV) – Not had one of these for years (prefer stronger beers) but it’s an easy to drink session beer originally brewed for working man in Cardiff (when there were steelworks and shipbuilding and not sitting on their behinds all day in an office like me) – uses Goldings and Fuggles hops

Brains SA (4.2% ABV) – a stable of the Cardiff pubs with a reputation with traveling rugby fans- Challenger, Goldings and Fuggles hops used.

SA gold (4.7% ABV) – a great refreshing beer late-hopped using Cascade and Styrian Goldings, that’s proving very popular in bottles (and not just with the head brewer)

Rev. James (4.5% ABV) – a great dark copper beer with lots of caramel – named after the founder of Buckley’s Brewery which Brains purchased in 1997.

Milkwood 4.3% ABV – a seasonal ale, not had this before but very nice – the rye crystal and malted oats gives it a great consistency – and yes it tasted milky! – It was brewed in dedication to the renowned Welsh poet & drinker Dylan Thomas.

and finishing with Brains Dark 3.5% ABV– or RD (Red Dragon ) Dark as it’s know in the company – the best Mild in the UK and a favorite of mine – even though its not strong its the prefect pint every time.

We had lunch (a selection of Welsh themed dishes), including a brilliant Red mustard and Bara brith pudding, at their famous Brewery Tap, the Crawshay Arms – the best pub in Cardiff as there is no till;) and is not normally open to the public.

St Davids Day - SA brains Cardiff Brewery Tour

The afternoon ended with a tour of a couple of their great City Centre pubs, which I seem to spend more and more time in nowadays the City Arms and Goat Major.

It’s excellent news for the Real Ale drinkers in Cardiff that Brains is also welcoming more and more guest beers in their pubs – this will pull in more punters not just from the local area but further field who will see Cardiff as a great place to come and drink quality beers.

The evening ended for me quite early (8ish) anyway, in the Yard, which has just been given a make over – for the Birthday party for their excellent stout Brains Black.

Brains Black - Welsh Stout st davids day - brains tour

I am sure Samuel Arthur would be proud that his name is being used on some great beers, and thanks to him I was spending a day in the company of people as passionate about beer as myself – my other tour members were respected beer writers Adrian Tierney-Jones and Tim Hampson, Editor of the Brew Wales Arfur Daley and youtube beer video blogger Simon Martin

You can see the full set of photos of my afternoon at Brains on Flickr.