The best little brewery in South Wales…
By Roger Clapham
Good beer is increasingly easy to come by in Britain these days, and that’s clearly and universally a good thing – you’ll hear no complaint from me about it. Exceptional beer, the kind that stops you in your tracks and demands you stop jabbering on about the football / gig you went to / Dave-at-work’s latest hilarious mishap and simply sup up in stunned silence, the kind that immediately becomes a new favourite to be sought out at every opportunity, well, those beers still remains a relatively rare thing. But like those long lost 7” soul imports you just know are lurking somewhere in that charity shop (“I’ll only be five minutes love – see you at the car?”), it’s out there, waiting to be found, admired, and savoured. Fairly recently, I made such a discovery, and in spades too.
The Gower peninsula in South Wales, near Swansea, is a truly beautiful place. Rolling green hills, plunging cliffs, the sea, the sand – it’s marvellous, a feast for the senses. And out the back of one the pubs in the area – The Greyhound Inn, in Oldwalls – there’s a little brewery, simply named the Gower Brewery. Its only been going since 2011, merely two years, but frankly there must be something in the water down there, as both the brewery itself and the beer they are producing is world class.
Lighthouse lager (yes, a lager, I know) is one of a trio of ace Gower beers I’ve managed to get my hands on. Pale straw coloured, and a sensible 4.5%, it has a smooth clean taste, and went down fantastically well in the hot weather earlier this summer. What struck me on drinking it was the simple fact that good quality ingredients had clearly been used and the lager made in the proper manner – it rightly tastes of something, namely the malts used in the lagering process, and not the harsh chemical flavour you can get with cheap, mass produced cooking lager. Don’t get me wrong, cooking lager has its place and like anyone I will and do drink the stuff – this is simply better, in fact so much so it has won a place in a forthcoming craft beer book by Ben McFarland, current British Beer Writer of the year.
Gower Gold, another 4.5% beer – although this one is a traditional pale ale – is a further delight. As I have mentioned before, pale ale is a brilliant style of beer, and this one is exceptionally well done in the classic style. Its flavoursome, nicely hopped to the required degree, malty and refreshing – much like its close cousin, the Gower Brewery IPA, known simply as “Gower Power” (which sounds bloody wonderful in a full blown Welsh accent). That one comes in at 5.5% and is a more traditional IPA, eschewing those fashionable extreme strengths/flavours with a clear bittersweet flavour and a hint of marmalade in the citrus hit of the hops – its classy and delicious. Not to mention the fact that it was the runner-up in the Best Rural Beer Contest of 2012.
The only problem with all of these beers is the fact they don’t generally get much further down the M4 than Cardiff (and that’s only just). However, that looks set to be rectified this September as Gower Gold has won a place in Sainsbury’s annual ‘Great British Beer Hunt’, where 16 beers from smaller producers fight it out for a national sales listing. So get down there pronto and pick some up – alongside some other crackers I’m sure. Plus, it was a fiver for three bottles last year, so you’ve no excuse – off you pop, chop chop.