Sunday 28 April saw Fire Island playing host to the Waen Brewery for their latest ‘Meet the Brewer’ session. Based in Llanidloes, Powys, the Waen Brewery stands tall alongside other great Welsh breweries such as Otley, Tiny Rebel and Celt. Waen (pronounced wine) started business in 2009 and already their beers can be found all over; I even stumbled across the Sick & Twisted in deepest darkest Dewsbury not long ago.
Owner and brewer Sue Hayward came along to answer technical questions, while tasting tutor Ed Davies (day-vis, not day-vees), led us through the beer tastings. Taking a prompt from Tom Newman at last week’s session, Fire Island set up the event at a table in the main bar, rather than the piano room. The table sign, seven million sampling glasses and jugs of beer flashed the message loud and clear, telling people where the event was being held.
Fire Island had definitely upped their game on last week, with attentive staff clearing away sampling glasses, bringing new ones, and delivering a buffet of epic proportions. Forget triangle cut sandwiches and bowls of crisps; this was lip-smacking barbecued ribs, smoked beef brisket rolls, thick cut potato wedges and plates of nachos.
It was a very intimate event, with two brewers, six attendees and the occasional bar staff looking in. Fire Island could easily grow it and pack out the piano room if they push the advertising and shift it to a weekday, and if that’s what they want they may need to do it quick before they run out of local brewers.
Intimacy is no bad thing, though, as it led to a very organic event where Sue and Ed learned as much from us as we did from them, effectively turning us into a small focus panel. They weren’t quite letting on their future plans, with subtle hints at opening a new bar and launching new beers, but the Waen Brewery is definitely growing. In Summer they will be expanding their capacity, going up from a 5 barrel plant to either an 18 or 23 barrel plant (don’t worry, they know which, I just didn’t jot down the figures). All of this means if you haven’t tried Waen beers before, you’re a lot more likely to in the near future, and rightly so.
Tiny Rebel Brew Co will be at the next Meet the Brewer event on Sunday 12 May. It may be a struggle making the effort to get out of the house on a Sunday evening, but it’s the best £6 you can spend in Cardiff.
TWA (Traditional Welsh Ale) – 3.7%: A gentle bitter style beer with plenty of sweetness, in both aroma and flavour, in the form of caramel, shortcake and digestive biscuit. Made to a carefully researched old Welsh style, this is a very easy going beer.
Janner’s Pride – 4.0%: Somewhere between an old ale and a bitter in style, this has Christmas spice, ginger and malt loaf flavours, with a brilliant, subtle roasted finish. I didn’t think too much at first, but with a little time it developed into my one of favourites.
Sick & Twisted: Now we’re entering the territory that puts the Waen Brewery on the map: speciality beers. Sick & Twisted is made with cocoa and coconut; the dark chocolate influence is up front, but the coconut hides shyly in the background (sorry). A beautiful beer that stands out; truly, after a millon-and-one beers on a stag do pub crawl, the Sick & Twisted in Dewsbury cut through them all.
Chilli Plum Porter – 6.1%: This is arguably their most famous beer and has won regional SIBA awards. The green chilli used in the brew gives this rich, dark beer a hearty warmth rather than a spicy flavour, and sweet but gentle plum flavours provide further balance.
Landmark Ale – 5.5%: A pale, hoppy IPA made with Summit and Fuggles hops. It was one of the most popular beers at the tasting, but after my senses had been battered by chillies I was beyond being able to pick out the flavour in Landmark.
You can follow Sue Hayward on Twitter at @The Waen Brewery, and visit the Waen Brewery website here. Ed Davies on Twitter is @WelshEddie86 and his blog is studentbrewer.blogspot.com
Disclaimer: Any and all errors are my own; such are the hazards of mentally taking notes while drinking beer.