Independent brewing and the ales of Wales

There’s no denying it – beer is big news in Wales. The history of brewing ale here is recorded from the days of druids 1,500 years ago and the 21st century has become something of a golden era for independent brewers, with numerous operations producing award-winning beer and cider.

Award winning breweries

Welsh Ales

Welsh Ales

 by Mike Serigrapher

With names like Tiny Rebel and Purple Moose, you could be forgiven for thinking that the produce of independent brewing in Wales features psychedelic properties. But these are producers of a range of award-winning ales.

The Great Orme Brewery and The Conwy Brewery are also recipients of awards from respected real-alers CAMRA (the Campaign For Real Ale).


Visit a Welsh brewery

Wooden beer barrels at Rhymney Brewery, Blaenavon

Rhymney Brewery, Blaenavon

Many of the brewers of Wales offer the opportunity to watch brewing at first hand. Tomos Watkin in Swansea, Rhymney Ales in the South Wales Valleys and Llangollen Brewery in North East Wales are just three of them.

But if witnessing the fermentation process of hops and barley is not for you, then you’ll be pleased to know that Wales offers a variety of scenic ale-related activities, from ale trails and beer festivals to walking and other athletic pursuits.

Ales and activities?

Cyclist drinking beer at the Real Ale Wobble, Llanwrtyd Wells

Real Ale Wobble, Llanwrtyd Wells

A responsible approach is evidently required if you’re going to combine the consumption of ale and mountain biking. The Real Ale Wobble is proudly non-competitive and marks the beginning of the 10-day Mid Wales Beer Festival. It’s just one of several imaginative events which take place in Llanwrtyd Wells, home of the World Bog Snorkeling Championships.

Other transport-related events include the Rail Ale Festival where festival-goers travel on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway to a trio of local hostelries, as well as the epicentre of activities at the Goods Shed at Dinas station.

The Flintshire Real Ale Trail offers the opportunity to jump on a bus and enjoy the ale and atmosphere at any of ten Welsh countryside pubs. The Route76 Festival in the Vale of Clwyd coincides with the annual Vale of Clwyd Festival of Real Ale and Cider Festival, with organised bus transportation around the local pubs. What better way to sample the delights of the Great Orme Welsh Black, Conway Clogwyn Gold, Purple Moose Snowdonia and ciders like Gwynt Y Ddraig and Llandegla?

Capital city beer and cider festival

Millennium Stadium

Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Principality Stadium, situated right in the heart of Cardiff, is renowned the world over as the home of Welsh rugby. It’s also home to the three-day Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival which features a staggering 250 real ales from Welsh breweries and around 200 ciders and perries. You may be pleased to find out they serve them in third-of-a-pint measures…

City centre pubs

Exterior view of Urban Tap House, Cardiff

Urban Tap House, Cardiff by konamikode

The festival extends into the pubs of Cardiff city centre with various Fringe events taking place at some of the capital’s most-loved watering holes. One of the relative newcomers on the block is the Urban Tap House, Wales’ first dedicated craft beer and cider bar, hosted by the founders of the aforementioned Tiny Rebel Brewing Company.

Nationwide distribution

Neath Food and Drink Festival 2010, Neath Port Talbot

Neath Food and Drink Festival 2010, Neath Port Talbot

Many of the larger regional breweries of Wales continue to thrive, including Carmarthenshire’s Felinfoel, the oldest brewery in Wales. The aforementioned Tomos Watkin Brewery in Swansea distributes cask ales, keg beer and bottled ales nationwide. The largest independent brewer in Wales is SA Brain, which has operated as a family business since 1882. Brains beer is sold in over 250 pubs in Wales and has spread the love across the border in Somerset and Herefordshire too.

With well over 50 small brewers in Wales, ale drinkers really are spoilt for choice. The only problem is where to begin your ale odyssey…