When he left university, Bill Dobson had the happy choice of working in either a chocolate factory or a brewery.
The trained industrial chemist chose beer and now, as head brewer at Brains, has created a double chocolate and bacon porter.
The Cardiff brewer has been at the forefront of the craft beer revolution in the UK, coming up with ever more creative variations of the amber nectar.
Bill, 41, has been head brewer at Brains for seven years and was inspired to create his latest beer – called A-Pork-Alypse – following a trip to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
The smooth and complex beer will be one of a range Brains will have on display at this year’s Great British Beer Festival in London later this month.
“The beer world is changing,” said Bill as he savoured a glass of his unusual brew this week.
“It’s moving from standardised beers and classifications, like lager and bitter, towards more eclectic craft beers.
“There is a lot more varieties and the boundaries have been blurred. There is a massive eclectic mix of beers on offer, inspired by beers from around the world.
“Craft beer is certainly a growing area. The consumer has become more knowledgeable about beer and more demanding. We have got to keep up with that.”
It was a case of trial and error before Bill finally cracked his bacon-infused beer, admitting: “Bacon is not an easy nut to crack – or an easy pig to slay!”
The main challenge, he said, was to get the flavour of the bacon without the fat. His colleague in the brewery’s food section helped solve the problem – but Bill’s keeping it to himself as a trade secret.
The chemical engineering graduate said: “When I left university I was offered two jobs – one in a chocolate factory and one in a brewery. I made the right choice.
“While at university I worked for a while at what was the ICI plant in Barry. I would sit in the Philharmonic pub in Cardiff and look across at the brewery. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever work there.
“Brewing is a science, an art, a craft and creativity all rolled into one. It is fascinating.”
Ian Beattie, brand manager at Brains, added: “The ale market is changing and one of the drivers is consumers demanding choice, so again this year we have extended our range of beers that we take to the GBBF.
“A-Pork-Alypse is a beer that we couldn’t have brewed before having the Brains Craft Brewery, which enables us to trial and experiment with new recipes and push the boundaries to challenge some of the preconceptions of a traditional brewer.
“I am sure it will divide opinion at the show.”
The Brains Craft Brewery will have three other beers at the Great British Beer Festival: Bragging Rights, a lightly golden pale ale based on an ancient Welsh beer style called bragawd; Dissolution, a Belgian Trappist-style ale Brewed in collaboration with award-winning beer writer Pete Brown; and Atlantic White, which blends the tradition of Belgian ‘Wit’ beers and the hop character of American Indian pale ales to produce a “white IPA”.
The Great British Beer Festival is at London Olympia from August 13-17. An estimated 55,000 beer-lovers are expected to attend the event, where more that 800 real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers will be available to sample.
This will be the seventh year Brains has been at the festival.
WalesOnline’s Peter Collins’ verdict on Brains’ A-Pork-Alypse
It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. I was among the first beer-drinkers outside the Brains brewery to sample A-Pork-Alypse and was surprised by just how pleasant it is.
Being more used to Brains SA or Dark, the prospect of drinking something brewed with bacon and chocolate didn’t immediately appeal.
The suggestion of freshly grilled bacon is immediately apparent on the nose.
The double chocolate gives it depth and smoothness, which means the ABV 4.5% appellation slips down very easily indeed.
A grist of roast and smoked malts, with bacon and cacao nibs added to the boil, gives the beer a smoky flavour alongside the chocolate.
It’s the sort of not-too-powerful, comforting beer that is ideal to drink with friends next to a roaring fire in a traditional pub.