Most people are aware that March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, and that St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. This is usually a cue to ‘rediscover’ some obscure Irish heritage and consume copious quantities of ‘Irish’ Stout, sometimes with bizarre green coloured heads.
It’s a less well known fact that March 1st marks St. David’s Day, and that St. David is the patron saint of Wales.
Some background information (skip this bit if you want):
Wales is one of the four nations that makes up the United Kingdom, it’s the bit that sticks out on the west, nearest to Ireland.
It has its own flag, its own (impenetrable) language and, since 2006, its own National Assembly (parliament) that has some powers devolved from the UK government in Westminster.
Like Scotland and Ireland, Welsh heritage derives from the Celts, and Wales was fiercely independent of England for centuries. These days that enmity manifests itself mainly in rivalry on the Rugby pitch (think American Football but without body armour). In the north Wales is fairly mountainous, while the south used to be the base of a major mining industry – now defunct.
The country is littered with castles, reminders of the hard fought battles over the years for independence; Caerphilly is home to one of Britain’s largest castles – dating back to the 13th century.
Okay, but why mention Wales here at The Brewclub? Well, on a recent trip to Manchester’s Port Street Beer House , I learned that they were hosting an evening with Thomas Newman of the ‘Celt Experience’ brewery in Caerphilly (Wales).
Tom started brewing some ten years ago, after working for Butcombe Brewery, initially from his father’s garage. Hey, if it was good enough for Hewlett Packard and Steve Jobs?
Later, in 2005 he opened his brewery in Caerphilly using equipment from the former ‘Smiles’ brewery – much as Thornbridge started out using old kit sourced from the Marston Moor brewery. Tom admits that, in brewing at least, his passion is ‘balance’ and he strives to produce balanced brews with an extensive range of global hops, innovative malts and exotic yeasts.
He explained to me that he currently has a project underway capturing wild yeasts from around Wales in an attempt to bring something really different into welsh brewing. As Tom described it “Wild, local Bretts”.
In 2013, he started the ‘Celt Ogham’ series of brews (named after ‘Ogham’, an ancient Celtic alphabet), these are stronger ales, in the 8% to 10.5% ABV range, not for the faint-hearted.
I enjoyed tasting a few of Tom’s ales at the Port Street Beer House, but that could hardly be described as a ‘controlled environment’, heck Tom handed some of the brews to me himself but, based on this first taste, I’m looking forward to trying some more.
Today we’ll start with something slightly less potent, their ‘Native Storm’
Native Storm 4.4% ABV
‘Native Storm’ takes its name from an armed uprising against the English, led by Owain Glyn Dwr. Described as ‘A storm arisen through Native Wales’, the rebellion started in the year 1400 and lasted for fifteen years before the English finally suppressed it. During that period Wales was truly independent of English rule, had its own king (the afore mentioned Owain Glyn Dwr) and parliament.
The beer pours mid brown, very lively, frothing from the bottle, but only creating a minimal head.
The nose is rich, and bready, malty with sweet caramel and spicy toffee.
Flavour-wise that rich maltiness is backed by assertive hops, these are older hop varieties, there’s no no real citrus to speak of. The hops taste almost metallic, but not in an unpleasant way.
It’s medium bodied, and well balanced, not a style of beer I would normally turn to, but it works.