20 April 2009

Wales' fails

Last Monday night in the Bull & Castle, Chris and Merideth held a fire sale of beers they didn't have room to take home to California with them. Out of politeness, it was just stuff they'd picked up in Wales on offer. The Irish-born rejects were presumably poured down a convenient drain some time earlier.

We started with some Cothi Gold, modelled here by Chris himself. I am often taken aback by the way Boak & Bailey use the term "homebrew" as way describing beer they don't like. Being friends with some very talented home brewers I've never quite understood what they meant. Until now. Cothi Gold, a 3.9% ABV pale ale, tastes like it was lashed together from a kit, with a kilo of white sugar and left to sit in a hotpress (or airing cupboard, or linen closet, depending on which country you're making the awful stuff in). There's a touch of lemony bitterness, but mostly it's thin, sharp, yeasty, over carbonated and with that definite tang of beer-gone-wrong.

From the same brewer (Ffos Y Ffin, near Carmarthen) comes Cwrw Caredig. It's darker, but tastes almost identical to Cothi Gold, only without that lemony character I quite liked. Where it's not bland, it's unpleasant. This brewery has some serious quality control issues to sort out, in this drinker's opinion, and this one's too, I seem to recall.

It's nice to see that the Welsh take the same imaginative approach to naming and signage as the Irish: why think of a name for something when you can just use an ordinary noun translated into the indigenous language? So, to a Welsh-speaker, Evan Evans's Cwrw is a product just called "Beer". Inspiring. It has quite an enticing honeyish nose, and a nice sweetness on the foretaste. But this was followed by quite a nasty musty flavour, with a touch of metallic dryness. It nearly works, but isn't close enough to be enjoyable.

Last up was the beer with the swishest livery, Cribyn by the Breconshire Brewery. I don't think I've seen any recent British beer with the original gravity marked on the label, but here it is. 1.045, since you ask. This was better than the others, but still not my sort of thing at all. It's strongly bitter, but instead of fresh hops there's a kind of earthy funk about it, with overtones of solvent. It's really quite heavy going in a way that beer at this sort of strength shouldn't be.

And that's my Welsh microbrew round-up, courtesy of TheBeerGeek.com. A couple of palate-rinsing Galway Hookers followed. I'm well aware that Wales makes better beer than this, but I can't always help what's put in front of me, can I?

When I can help it, you'll generally find me at the establishments mentioned on my guest post over at Cheap Eats today.


  1. Is Wales the only western country without a national drink? Does Dylan Thomas make up for this?

  2. What's the national drink of Luxembourg?

  3. Feel like kind of a tool for pouring the beers for you... I'm going to chalk it up to the beers didn't like being tossed around in my rucksack for a day.

    We had our Welsh beer tasting yesterday and the beers went over quite well. Of the five we tasted, Conwy's Honey Fayre, Purple Moose's Dark Side of the Moose and Breconshire's Night Beacon were the most popular.

  4. No problem at all. I was glad of the opportunity, especially when it cost me nothing more than a round of Hookers.

  5. The Bloody Tan10:01 pm

    Why am I not surprised there isn't a single restaurant in Cork on the cheapeats website.
    That's because Cork is the epicentre of Rip-Off Ireland.
    However,I have spotted this bargain at Clancy's Pub in Princes Street.

    7 DAY SIRLOIN FOR 7 TIL 7 €7.00
    A maize-fed, Irish steak, with steakhouse fries, for 7.00, before 7 PM, 7 days a week? Simply buy a drink [soft drink, bottled beer, pint, etc.] and it will be!

    Especially then you consider their 24oz fillet steak goies for €64.95 !!!

  6. I tried to comment on this the other day, but it looks like my wise words were eaten by the internet.

    We've been told off by Wilson at Brewvana for using homebrew-like as a critical term, and we've tried to be more specific since then. What we mean is (a) that a beer is a bit rough round the edges and (b) that's a characteristic of our dodgy brewing attempts. We never taste anyone else's homebrew, so that's our benchmark, sadly.

    My experience of Welsh beer suggests, on the whole, an incredible stinginess with hops.

  7. nice point about homebrew. for some reason it doesnt have the same kudos as 'craft beer'. In fact, only this week at work, as i handed off a bottle of hombrewed, all-grain pale ale to a friend, another colleague snorted 'ooh, is that homebrew?' and then recounted how her dad used to make kit beer in buckets. I sighed, and left it at that. a shame really. I also rate Dark Side of The Moose.