A co-op brewery launched in a cowshed becomes modern success
A co-operative of Welsh brewers who set up in a converted cowshed near the site of the country’s first Bronze Age brewery has become a 21st century success story.
Cwrw Llyn, Welsh for “Beer Lake”, a cooperative group made up of 12 friends. They started brewing on a commercial scale last May and recently moved to larger, more modern premises at Nefyn, Gwynedd thanks to funding from the Rural Development Plan for Wales – an amalgam of European Union and Welsh Government funds.
Not only is the brewery’s locations steeped in history, so are the names which it has given to its beers. The cooperative’s first beer is a traditional bitter named Brenin Enlli after Bardsey Island’s last-known king.
The second, a golden ale, is named Seithenyn, after one of the Three Immortal Drunkards of the Isle of Britain, who according to legend was responsible for the sea-defences of Cantre’r Gwaelod, but neglected them one night because of his drunkenness, allowing the sea to overrun them.
Myrddin ap Dafydd, a member of the collective who is also an accomplished poet, said: “There is a fascinating history to beer making in the area and we want to tell this at a heritage centre we are hoping to build, along with a new micro brewery, a kiln and a visitor centre where people can come and see the beer being made.”
He added that archaeologists believe they have discovered the oldest brewery in Wales at Porth Neigwl – only 10 miles from his home at Llwyndyrys, where the group first started to brew beer.
“They found a wooden trough dating back to the Bronze Age 3,000 years ago with specs of grain inside, as well as other evidence to confirm that beer was being made,” said Mr ap Dafydd.
“There is a fascinating history to beer-making in the area and we hope to tell this at a heritage centre we are hoping to build, along with a new micro brewery, a kiln and a visitor centre where people can come and see the beer being made.”
While the move to new premises has enabled Cwrw Llyn to treble its production to 30 barrels of beer a week and meet a growing demand from local pubs and hotels, the group holds even more ambitious plans for the future.
The friends’ ambitions include growing their own barley to make a truly local pint. But despite including three farmers, the group currently source their malt barley from a company in Nottingham.
“One of our members grew eight acres last year for animal feed,” said Mr ap Dafydd. “We sent some of this away to be analysed and the results showed that it would be perfect for beer production.”
Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Alun Davies said: “Cwrw Llyn is one of many small businesses in rural Wales that are being helped to prosper and grow by the RDP.
“The group’s plans to combine its brewing activity with a tourist attraction show how food and drink has been intertwined with our identity and culture for hundreds of years.
“Capitalising on these links to create an extra string to their bow is an excellent example of how we can make the most of our excellent produce to encourage food tourism in Wales. I wish them the very best of luck for the future.”