Our latest trip here at BeerYeti was a visit Snowdon Craft Beer, near Colwyn Bay on the North coast of Wales. The brewery, started by Jonathan Hughes, was originally called Great Orme Brewery and has been going for over 13 years, created from humble beginnings on his parent’s farm. The brewery did its big reinvention back in January this year with a move to a larger site and rebranding. On arrival and walking through the brewery, it was clear that they still have a fair way to go building-wise. The office foundations have been laid down and still needs to be built, but the sheer-space tells you that these guys have some big plans, the 15 barrel kit actually looks pretty small itself, dwarfed by the surrounding building.
We sat down with Jonathan, and he told us a little bit more about their history and what their plans are…
“[The original building was] 600 square ft and we grew from there. I took on Tristan, who did the admin, and I did the brewing. I have to admit I wasn’t a brewer at all, my background was in business and food manufacturing, really. We got steadily bigger and Richard, our current Head Brewer, came on board. We then took a bit of a plunge by moving away from the old farm site to an old abattoir in Llandudno, which was fantastic [brewing-wise] for it’s gruesome, yet practical drainage system; however, we were constantly fighting the old building. It was never set up as a brewery, all of the walls were in the wrong places, there was no storage or warehousing, so it just became difficult, which brought the move on to this site”
On talking about the big name change and the move, Jonathan continued;
“At Great Orme, we did a range of ales, but [in addition], I decided to brew a lager about 6 years ago. At first, it was 1% of the business, but as time went on, we moved here, and it was 55% of our business. We’d call up and introduce ourselves as Great Orme Brewery and clients wouldn’t know who we were, but as soon as we mentioned Snowdon Craft Lager, they knew who we were. People started to get confused with the two brands, so we were like, ‘Let’s throw all of the cards in the air and start again!’”
“We still wanted something that was about North Wales, I think North Wales is generally going through a bit of a renaissance, people come to see the natural scenery, but it’s also becoming the Queenstown of the Northern Hemisphere with Surf Snowdonia, Zip World [the world’s fastest zip wire] and Bounce Below [an underground playground]. We wanted our beers to be of that place too with a geographical reference, we also brew Summit Blonde IPA, Nomad All-Night Stout, Base Camp Session Pale and Driftwood Amber.”
“Although we moved in January, we didn’t start brewing until March and, BOOM, we’re in season now for North Wales. We’ve done it the hard way; we’ve not been given a dollop, seven-figure sum of money to create an all-spangling temple of stainless steel. We’ve had to do it through hard graft, second-hand kit and the old fashioned way through grow, reinvest, grow a bit further. Our mash tun is an old ice cream maker, our copper is two tanks welded together which are both ex-Salopian [Brewery] kit. We’re still settling into the new site, so it’s still a little bit of a building site, but we are where we are and keep production going as we move. There is an element of reward in doing things the long way, but man it’s hard!”
Jonathan finished off by taking us to Sheldon’s, a cracking local bar that sells their brews. Over a Snowdon Craft IPA, he told us;
“There’s some exciting times ahead, we’re on the Conwy Real Ale Trail at the end of September, so we’re just working to get the taproom set up for then. We’re keen to be as environmentally conscious as possible, so we’re trying to experiment in putting in an above-ground reed bed. So there’s a lot of things that we’ll be working on over the next 12 months.”
Definitely keep an eye out for Snowdon Craft Beer brews. We’ll be watching out for these guys, and we can’t wait to see the finished taproom!