Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Celt Experience & the Wheatsheaf Rooms

Whilst at the millennium stadium beer festival and standing at the Celt Experience bar buying their excellent Brigid Fire I noticed a few flyers of theirs about the Wheatsheaf rooms.

The Wheatsheaf hotel was a pub in Llantrisant, a town at the top of a steep hill in south Wales only a couple of miles away from me, some friends live there to.
I had visited it a few years ago when it was a Newman's pub,  a Caerphilly based brewery.

I'm not totally clear on their history but Celt seems to have been born as a side project/passion and has now superseded Newman's over the last couple of years becoming the main focus/brand, with Tom Newman at the helm.
Their focus on quality, always providing excellent beers, and great branding has seen them become one of the leading craft breweries in Wales. I dont think I've had a beer of theirs I didn't like.

The pub itself closed about a year ago, in its last working year it also housed it's own brewery which moved on and is now the Pixie Spring/Hopcraft brewery which remains very local also.

Last week however saw the reopening of the Wheatsheaf as the Celts brewery tap. I had briefly spoken to Dean at the stadium, the new bar manager, unfortunately due to work commitments I was unable to attend the launch night.

A newly painted front and then your into a large multi roomed establishment, lots of wood, old
building features mixed with modern bar styling. It works well, the rooms could be quite dark but have large windows and subtle lighting.
Large wooden bar with taps behind, chalk board with current offerings keg and cask and as you'd expect their range of bottles in the fridge.

When I saw this beer on untappd last month I thought what a brilliant name, and so I went for Celts 'Bristol Meth' 7. 4%  double IPA. Full of pine, toffee, a smacking bitterness, and hints of lemon, it was the right choice.

Dean and I chatted about our thoughts on the recent festival, music and the bar. They're starting to serve food from next week (early July). You can found out the latest news and beers on via their Twitter feed @CeltLlantrisant.

Hopefully this bar will be a huge sucess, outside of Cardiff I'm struggling to think of other bars that offer the same experience in South Wales, its easily accessible literally only 5 minutes drive of J34 of the M4, and I'll be back there soon too.

 Thanks to Dean for his time, a top bloke.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

One day - Two Welsh Beer festivals

The first weekend of June had great weather and Cardiff hosted two beer festivals, namely the CAMRA Great Welsh beer and cider festival, AKA W-Ales 2014 festival, and at the Tiny Rebel bar 'Urban Tap House' hosting their own one.

The start of these festivals had already seen the top accolade, the
Gold medal for best Welsh beer as voted for by CAMRA, going to the Tiny Rebel beer 'Fubar'.

Personally I feel this is really quite important for the Welsh brewery scene, their clean sweep of the top awards last year was amazing, but I think taking the gold for a second year is even more so, something blogger Chris Hall also succinctly points out in his review of the day and the Welsh scene.

I was worried that last year could easily be seen as CAMRA giving a slight nod towards the microbrewery and craft market, a slap on the back for Tiny Rebel, and then awarding this years Gold to, say, Evan Evans for 'Boring Brown', a dishwater bitter at 3.3%.
The heaving Evans Evans bar. Other bars had the customers.

 But retaining the top award hopefully acknowledges the ever growing small brewery culture that's booming in Wales. With Tiny Rebel, Celt Experience, Waen and Otley leading the way, numerous new breweries are making a name for themselves also, Heavy Industry and Grey Trees to name but two. A measure of the number at this festival was that this year ALL the beer's were from Wales, usually they are from all over the UK, but now the industry is large enough to support and supply it totally, which is fantastic for the country.

About 1pm Friday, roof off.
I'm not going to do a complete review of all the beers I had, more a pro's and con's of the day, and I'll split it into the two festivals separately.

Starting with the big one, at its new venue the Millennium stadium. 
I'm still undecided about the choice, it had loads going for it, the size, it was lovely, cool and airy. The huge amount of seating was appreciated.
The roof was open to start with but closed at some point and we never noticed!
The layout was fine, alot more breweries had their own stands, emphasing their branding and beers. It did mean some of the other casks kind of got lost behind all this though.
The two bigger boys, Brains and Evan Evans had been pushed out on the sides and seemed a bit detached, although the Brains one was busy enough as the day went on.

However I got a real schizophrenic atmosphere in there as the day went on. Someone had just picked up a festival and dumped it into the place, it felt like it was uncomfortable, maybe the venue is just too big?? Perhaps some of the elements out of Camra's control added to that, such as the corporate advertising on the big screen, and the Heineken area.
Yup, in a Camra festival you could get your cooking lager fix!!

Foster's stand, next the Heineken one. Out of shot is the Molson Coors one.
As my friend and I discussed, it's probably contractual stuff with the stadium itself and Camra had no say in their presence. No foreign beer bar this year either.

Was that the same for the food stands then? The 'international street foods' was hugely disappointing for a festival of this size.. A hotdog stand, burger van, crisps stand and I forget the rest. I'm sure they were all very nice and good quality, we bought Pipers crisps, but so limited in overall food choice.

What about the beer then.

On walking in (£10), clutching my plastic glass (which cost my friend another £2), the Celt Experience bar was right in prime position so I went straight in for their Castle Coch, 4.7% a red coloured bitter, lovely and lemony, creamy and fresh. Great start.
Later I went back to them for the Brigid Fire, a 5.6% smoked rye beer, 'brewed with oak smoked wheat and borrowed Biere de Garde yeast Dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin'. This was fantastic, pine full on, great smoked and big bitterness.
Other highlights were Grey Trees and their 5% Black IPA which was excellent, really juicy and spicy. 
Tiny Rebels 'One Inch Punch' a 3.9% 'session IPA' is brilliant, balanced and well worth looking out for.

My friend is not big on strong darker beers but we were both equally  impressed with Zero Degrees and the Imperial Russian Stout, 9.1% as our last beer of the day there.

 Otley impress again, with their Sakura 4.8%, a Belgian wheat beer with cherries which were so ripe and funky it zinged and remained fresh. Loved this one.

My favourite beer of the day inside the stadium was by Brecon Brewing, their 'Dark Skies' from the Genesis series.This is a dark Saison made with raspberries and vanilla sea salt. Sounds weird but is great, the musty and funkiness hit with the tartness form the raspberries, to be backed up with sweet notes of vanilla and a good body and carbonation.

 Onto the Tiny Rebel festival then, or rather lets start at it, which is what we did.

Tiny Rebel LogoGo to the home page

Meeting up at the Urban Tap House opposite the stadium for their 4 day festival seemed absolutely logical, just up from the train station in Central Cardiff. We planned for a couple of hours here first and then onto the W-Ales one.

Where to start? They had so many good beers on, stillage in one end of the bar area, a rotation system on the taps and pumps with a list provided so you could judge when a particular beer was on so you could look out for it rather than it appearing randomly at the next available tap and you miss it.
The beer's currently on was listed on the TV screen to help also.

I thought I'd start with something to liven and refresh the palate and the Tiny Rebel Lemon and Lime sour Berliner Weisse (4%) sounded like the one for the job.

And it certainly was. Wow. Crisp and lively, the lemon and lime zinging around, sherbert, and a tart and dry end. Excellent, my friend tried it and went and got his own one.
It was the first of the day and I dont think any bettered it.

I think it also started a taste for the tart, the sour and the fruity that day, several others I bought went down that route.

After that I went for the Magic Rock 'carnival' which was okay, and then we shared one I'd seen other bloggers talk about, Kernel's 'London Sour'.
Certainly more sour than the Tiny Rebel Berliner, but theirs had the delightful lemon/lime combo, the Kernel had that green apple element, dry and slightly salty, slight carbonation.

After we had been to the stadium for several hours we started to miss the Tap House, as I said before the atmosphere seemed odd and we both kinda just wanted to go back, we'd seen beers there that we really wanted to try, and this was over the vast choice in front of us.

So we did, and whilst I tried my Birrificio Italiano 'Nigredo' we wondered if the money spent on getting into the W-Ales festival would have been better spent in staying at the Tap House.

Getting into it cost me a tenner, my non Camra member friend £12, which seems an awful lot for this festival, especially when you consider that the Great British Beer Festival pre-ordering tickets now costs £8 this year, has over 3 times as many beers (900+), and has got to have better food options I imagine.

But overall we had a great day, some really great beers, and the futures bright for Welsh beer.
 dark Saison brewed with fresh raspberries from Court Farm, Tillington (our neighbours at the Brecknock Farmers Market!) and Halen Môn’s sublime Vanilla Sea Salt - See more at:
A dark Saison brewed with fresh raspberries from Court Farm, Tillington (our neighbours at the Brecknock Farmers Market!) and Halen Môn’s sublime Vanilla Sea Salt - See more at:

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Tiny Rebel make it two in a row!

Fubar labelNewport brewers Tiny Rebel make it two years in a row by taking gold again at the Great Welsh Beer and Cider festival in Cardiff this year.

The results were
Gold - Tiny Rebel 'Fubar'
Silver - Purple Moose - 'Dark side of the Moose'
Bronze - Great Orme - 'Welsh Black'

Fubar is a 4.4% American Pale ale that is bloody gorgeous, a great choice to be honest.
Huge congratulations to Gaz and the team.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The W-Ales Beer Festival 2014

Early June means time for the Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival, this year its been re branded as the W-Ales Beer festival, in a new location also.
Earlier in the year I noticed that the Motor Point arena in Cardiff had a band listed as playing on the dates the festival is normally held there leading me to wonder if it had either moved dates or venue.
Turns out its the venue as they've upgraded to the Millennium Stadium, and also advertising "an emphasis on international ‘street’ foods" which, lets be honest, can only be an improvement on the dreadful food at the Motor Point. Looking today on the website though I still cannot see any vendors listed so it'll be interesting to see what is there.

 Beer List here
What looks interesting that they all appear to be Welsh beers, usually there are ones from all over the UK.

Dates are June 5th- 7th, with Thursday being the trade only day, open to public at 5pm. Friday & Saturday 12.00noon – 10.30pm

Price has increased again, day ticket is now £10, other deals available, and you get to keep the commemorative glass if your a CAMRA member.
(I'm fine then but what about my friends, are they to be charged if they want the glass, on top of the tenner to get in?)

Some great beers are listed, several new breweries to me that I'll try to seek out, it looks like a good beer day for me.

Tiny Rebel Beer festival 5th- 8th June

Starting this Thursday until Sunday is the NOT SO Tiny Rebel Beer Festival, at their Cardiff bar The Urban Tap House.
You gotta love a spreadsheet and it looks like they needed one here to list the beers schedule so you know when the beers you want will be on tap!!
I'm studying Fridays list as that's when I'll be going.