As a keen real ale enthusiast, I find there is nothing better to do on a sunny day (or a rainy one, come to think of it) than pop down to the local for a nice refreshing pint. However, living in North Wales, this has become a particular joy of late thanks to the number of locally brewed bevvies on tap. At present, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) estimates that over 100 people in North Wales are employed by microbreweries, bringing a diverse mix of flavours and textures to the market, and I for one could not be more delighted – especially as this figure is set to grow thanks to the huge popularity of local real ales.
A great starting point is the Purple Moose Brewery in Porthmadog, which operates hour long tours from 2pm on Monday to Thursday of each week. As well as being highly affordable at only £5 per head, the tour concludes with a free pint at the end – plus you get to keep the glass! (Mine has pride of place in the drinks cabinet). Additionally, the brewery shop sells everything from bottled beers to gift vouchers, the ideal gift for any real ale enthusiast worth their hops.
Alternatively, those seeking a Snowdonia microbrewery which has truly deep local roots should head to Cwrw Llyn – a small business started in May 2011 by 12 friends from a diverse range of backgrounds. The bragdy (brewery) has become a huge success and many local pubs now serve Brenin Enlli, Seithenyn and Cochyn as standard. In fact, after visiting the brewery, popping in to Y Plu in Llanstumdwy and saying: “Dau beint o gwrw os gwelwch yn dda” (or “two pints of beer please”) will help round the day off nicely.
At the other end of the scale is Big Bog Brewing Company, whose owner Paul Jeffries has over 25 years of experience in the British and International Brewing Industry. I found his dedication to using only the highest quality local produce impressive, and this commitment to quality really shines through in the brewery’s Quagmire Premium Ale especially. Furthermore, the microbrewery is a great excuse to visit one of my favourite villages in North Wales, Waunfawr – tell me a better way to spend an afternoon than with a delicious pint and picturesque views and I’ll buy you a pint of Bog Standard Bitter myself!
Next on my list of personal favourites is the Bragdy Nant Brewery in Llanrwst, mainly because this microbrewery has done so much to raise the profile of real ale production in Snowdonia. I highly recommend testing out the Mwnci Nel particularly – after all, if it’s good enough to take home the silver medal in the CAMRA Champion Beer of Wales 2010 competition, you know it’s worth investing in a pint or two. The dark ale is particularly tasty during the winter months, and the slightly chocolaty but not overly sweet bite leaves everyone wanting more, including myself on more than one occasion.
Heading south a little, Cader Ales in Dolgellau is the ideal pit stop for those looking to explore more of southern Snowdonia. For the more adventurous real ale enthusiasts, the microbrewery’s location at the foot of Cader Idris makes it an ideal trip in which to work up a thirst – although, to be perfectly honest, I chose to gaze up at the mountain and beat a hasty retreat inside for a nice pint of Red Bandit after seeing the dark clouds rolling overhead. I did wear walking boots, if that counts…
Finally, for those who enjoy a little experimentation with flavours, no microbrewery in North Wales will satisfy your taste buds quite like Conwy Brewery. Injecting aromas with a citrusy tang and taking influence from American IPAs by using fruitier blends allows this brewery to provide some of the most unique cwrw (beer) to be found in the Snowdonia region. In fact, experts will attest to the quality of products on sale here, with the bragdy’s Honey Fayre , or Cwrw Mel, taking the bronze medal at the Great British Beer Festival in the speciality beer category. With outlets and shops scattered throughout the area surrounding Conwy and most local pubs featuring guest ales, Conwy Brewery is truly one of the gems of the North Wales beer industry.
For anyone who enjoys a nice pint on a hot, cold or (as we’re in Wales) rainy day, a microbrewery tour is the ideal day out as this is the optimum method of identifying exactly which flavours and consistencies match your taste, as well as introducing you to a whole world of beers not often found in local supermarkets. With all the information required to hand, the only remaining task is to choose the designated driver…!