Last orders for this year’s Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival will be called later today – with organisers saying they expect 6,000 drinkers to have passed through its doors.
The annual three-day festival held at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena on Mary Ann Street, labelled “Wales’ largest pub”, will conclude after hosting some of the best and most novel brews from home and abroad.
Among them include beers produced by the likes of South Wales breweries SA Brain, Tiny Rebel, Otley Brewing Company and The Celt Experience.
Some of their offerings this week include a 10.0% ABV Penderyn cask-matured ale and a vanilla-barrel aged beer served directly out of the oak.
Meanwhile this year has seen the first Festival Fringe – where extra events have extended to city pubs including The Goat Major and the City Arms.
Organiser Arfur Daley, of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said the festival had gone from strength to strength since its earlier days at Splott’s STAR Centre and City Hall.
He said: “The breweries have seen it’s a good place to try out one-off special brews.
“It’s good to have the support of the breweries here. They now see it as a major showcase for Welsh brewing. We are still seeing pub closures but we are here with the largest pub in Wales for the three days we are open.
“This is why we brought the fringe events in as well to get other pubs involved in Cardiff with us.
“We are expecting 6,000 people. On Friday nights it’s four or five deep at the bar.”
Among those showcasing their brews was Bradley Cummings, co-founder and director of Newport-based micro-brewery Tiny Rebel, which has nine new beers this week.
Mr Cummings said: “The festival is where we really launched last year. This was really our platform to get out there round Wales because we want to be a local brewery.
“Even though we sell all over the UK and have started exporting to Denmark and Australia, we still want to consolidate our local base.
“It’s great to see good things coming out of Newport and, in the beer industry, lots of good breweries coming out of Wales.”
Meanwhile Brains has a vast range of beers from their craft brewery and a special Lions-themed fruity golden ale for rugby fans called Touch. Paws. Engage.
Ffion Jones, who earlier this year became the first female brewer in Brains’ 130-year history, said: “It is a bit of a test bed – it’s a great place to test beers and for people who know our craft beer range to give us feed back.”
Newport brewery lands top three spots
Tiny Rebel brewery, based in Newport, took the top three spots in the voting for Wales’s champion beer in their very first year as an eligible brewer.
Here, Simon Gaskell looks at the merits of the contenders.
Dirty Stop Out 5%
Newly-crowned as Wales’ champion beer, on first look this smoked oat stout is very dark with a slight reddish tinge with an off-white, foamy head.
On the nose there are roast flavours like coffee and a particularly strong aroma of dark chocolate.
There is a pine, resin-like deepness to the flavour and deep roast, chocolate flavour that increases during the aftertaste.
At the end it is very dry – what is called in the brewing trade “stringency”.
This hay bale golden ale with a foamy white head finished runner-up to its stable mate.
There are distinct citrus and lemon notes and also more than a hint of a freshly-mown lawn on the nose.
It also has a strong aroma from its German and US hops.
Like many of Tiny Rebel’s offerings, it is very bitter and has a lingering aftertaste.
But there is a crisp taste and this is a very refreshing beer summed up in a nutshell as a golden, hoppy beer.
Urban IPA 5.5%
This is a deeper golden colour than Fubar, and quite dense, with a large head.
There are citrus flavours in the aroma accompanied by more than a hint of grapefruit.
In the taste – definitely the stronger side of citrus and once again very bitter.
The bitterness is long-lasting, with it remaining on the palate for well more than a minute.
The intense flavour from the Cascade, Columbus and Chinook hops really comes through the beer.