by Roger Clapham
Wales. “Land of our fathers” to the locals, merely land of my father-in-law to me. I’ve spent the last few summers (and more) visiting Wales and I’ve never suffered from the lack of a good pint there. As you might expect there’s plenty on offer, from the likes of regional breweries such as Brains in South Wales (shirt sponsors of the Welsh national rugby side) to the Bragdy Conwy beer up in North Wales (best supped amongst the peaks and shadows of Snowdonia). There’s also a healthy smattering of smaller scale producers – after taking a wrong turning in Pembrokeshire last year I happened across a farmer with a microbrewery in one of his outbuildings, and a stack of freshly bottled beer for sale. His wife painted the images of the local landscape he was using for his labels – it was a proper cottage industry, I loved it – and the beer was pretty good too.
The Tomos Watkin range has been around for a while, having started up as a microbrewery in Carmarthenshire in 1995 (although the name itself goes back at least a century further than that). It’s now based in Swansea and produced by the Hurls Brewing Company who have developed the range since they took it on in 2002, and they boldly claim that the beers are specifically brewed with the Welsh drinker’s tastes in mind. A fantastic sentiment no doubt, although you might question the sensitivities of the Welsh palette had you ever seen Swansea’s Wind Street in full flight on a weekend – it featured in a number of ‘and finally…’ sections last year after CCTV footage surfaced of two cage fighters in drag making short work of a would-be Joe Calzaghe who had picked a fight with their mate Spiderman (one of them dropped his handbag in the process, reports that the other broke a nail are unsubstantiated). Regardless, this fine idea of catering towards regional tastes does give their beers – certainly the OSB bitter and the Cwrw Haf golden ale at least – a certain flavour that’s not too sweet yet has a hint of zesty spice to it, and has seen them win a number of CAMRA awards in Wales.
Cwrw Haf means ‘summer ale’ in Welsh, and that’s exactly what this is. Light and golden, with a hint of citrus, it’s a fairly classic pale ale for the summer months. It has a good body to it whilst not being overly gassy, and a relatively strong, refreshing taste due to the mixture of hop varieties used in its production. At 4.2% it’s well suited to relaxed summer drinking outdoors, but whether that’s on your back steps (as in my case) or in a Brecon Beacons beer garden is your choice. It is available in a few supermarkets beyond South Wales, but largely you’ll see it either bottled or as a guest beer within the region, making it well worth looking out for should you be in the area this summer. Tidy. Cheers…