The Hoptimist

Otley bottle on restaurant bar

Otley Brewing Company

Every fire starts with a spark. The craft beer explosion is no exception. Back in 2005 few could have predicted that speciality brewing would be the roaring success that it is now.

So, when the Otley Brewing Company came on the scene 12 years ago it immediately stood out as something very new in what was largely a staid and somewhat tired brewing culture. Naturally, it started at the bar – the Otley boys, born into the pub trade in Pontypridd were “propping up the bar after another long shift” and ruminating on the fact that they’d been selling beer for a long time and maybe they should start brewing it too. From the start, making just another beer wasn’t on the agenda. If this was going to be done, it was going to be done differently with the “aim of producing beers the likes of which had not been produced in Wales before...beers packed full of hop aromas, thirst-quenching bitterness and light, crisp flavours that would keep you coming back for more.” With that manifesto established and propelled by wild enthusiasm, the Otley Brewing Company came into being on August 1st 2005. It wasn’t only the beer that was to be different – they wanted a brand to match and the result was a real break with traditional beer marketing. Contemporary, innovative and taking as fresh an approach to branding as they were with brewing.

The trouble with doing something different is that there is no way of knowing for sure that it’s going to work. The flames of initial passion are often quickly extinguished by a bucketload of reality. To be original takes nerve and a belief that the pint glass is half full:

“We just thought it was time for some new flavour, there’d been an emphasis on provenance and locality in food for a while with more craft being put into it and we thought, isn’t it about time that happened for beer? Unbeknown to us at that time 5 or 6 years later there would be this great wave of craft beers. We like to think we kind of helped that second wave come along.”

Whilst that wave has been rolling in, Otley’s tide has been steadily rising. They now employ around 40 people, exporting beer as far as China and on the shelves in Marks & Spencer across Wales and Nick Otley is optimistic about the future of quality food and drink in Wales. “It’s really exciting at the moment – some of the producers that are popping up are incredibly focused and as a result, some of the things they are producing are the best in world, not just in the UK. If you’ve got an idea and you are passionate – it’s a good time to start up. Customers want something really local and special – if you have got that product, that ambition and that enthusiasm – do it!”