The New Rhymney Brewery, Dowlais
The Rhymney Brewery, Dowlais has taken up the most famous name in Welsh brewing to emphasise the fact that they are bringing back the old traditional flavours using modern methods and organic natural ingredients. All over Britain our beer has lost its local flavour. There are sadly few small independent breweries remaining in South Wales. Admittedly the Rhymney name disappeared when the Brewery was taken over by Whitbread, but, Rhymney will linger on in the memory as a reminder of the days of well loved local brews. ‘The Best’ was more than an advertising slogan for Rhymney beer as far as the whole South Wales area was concerned, it was a statement of fact. Today there are few local brewers left to give us their peculiar tang, to remind us of the days when ale didn't taste like beer bags dipped in tepid water. Good beer is something that really matters in Wales.
Dowlais was always a hard drinking town, the Temperance Movement made less headway here than in other places and Merthyr Tydfil once had 504 public houses and a population that knew good beer when they tasted it. In 2004 when father and son Steve and Marc Evans started the enterprise it was the right time for a new Brewery in South Wales which could follow the old traditions and also create some new ones. There was a shortage of good Welsh bottled beer for a large market, something that can make Welsh exiles think of home!
It is truly a family concern, after joining the business in 2006, Andrew too has become a part of the family by marrying the daughter of the owner and he is the proud father of Marc's twin nephews. The whole family are very keen on drinking their own product and are often to be found in the Brewery pub, the Winchester in the early evenings. Although the motto of the Brewery is Taste is Everything the Rhymney Brewer also has a keen interest in both Heritage and Environmental issues and this is reflected in their labels.
The Rhymney bottled beer was named after the heroes of Welsh Labour history. Bevan’s Bitter, was named after the NHS founder Nye Bevan and the 1905 Centenary Ale was a special brew marking Merthyr’s Town Charter in 1905. The label commemorated the great Independent Labour leader and MP of Merthyr Tydfil, Keir Hardie. Since the beers sell extremely well in West Wales, there has also been a special beer to honour General Picton of Pembrokeshire, the only Welshman to be buried at Westminster Abbey. The Brewery even won a National Commemorative Beer Label Prize for its Dowlais Dram, which celebrated the centenary of Dowlais Library.
The Rhymney Brewery has been innovative in many unusual ways. In 2006 the Brewery not only sponsored the book ‘All Roads Lead to Merthyr’ but also held the official Arts Department book launch in the Brewery itself. As part of the Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Celebrations, a prestigious lecture was held in the Brewery when Dr Keith Strange gave a talk on ‘Drink in Merthyr Tydfil’. Although more accustomed to University lecturing, he was happy to make do with using beer boxes as his lectern, especially as he was give a gift of beer to take back. Dr Bill Jones from the University of Wales in Cardiff even asks for Rhymney Beer as his payment for lecturing in Merthyr Tydfil.
Our Brewing Process
We use only the finest possible ingredients in our brewing using Malted Barley, Hops, Water and Yeast. We use Pale Ale Malted Barley and a combination of coloured Malts to give the colour and malt flavour. We use a combination of both modern hops and some traditional hops to give bittering and aroma qualities. Measurements are taken during each stage of the brewing process to ensure consistency, including checking clarity, colour, gravities, aroma and flavours.
We start the preparations for brewing the night before brewing by weighting out the Malts for the recipe we are brewing, but we like to do everything else fresh on the day of brewing. We are one of the few breweries in Wales who actually crush our barley ourselves which makes for a much fresher and superior product. On the actual Brew Day we start early. The Malt and hot liquor are mixed in the Mash Tun and then left for a further hour for the starch to convert to fermentable sugars. This sugary liquid (Wort) is then ‘run off’ into the Kettle over a period of around 90 minutes, during this time the malt is sprayed with the hot liquor using the rotating sparge arm. This washes the sugars from the malt, giving a good malt extract.
Once the wort has transfered to the kettle, the wort is heated to boiling. Once boiling the hops for bitterness are added. These hops are boiled for 80 minutes, with aroma hops being added before the end of the boil.
Following the boil the wort is cooled and transfered to the Fermenting Vessel where the live yeast is added. The yeast then converts the sugars to alcohol over a period of days and carbon dioxide is produced. The temperature and gravity are closely measured during the fermentation process. Once the correct amount of sugar has been converted to alcohol, the wort is chilled. This arrests the fermentation and the yeast settles to the bottom of the vessel. The whole process takes around 8 days. It has been said that this mixture should always see the Sabbath Day’, meaning that the absolute minimum has to be 7 days, but we give it longer. The ‘green’ beer is then transferred to casks. The casks are then stored and the secondary fermentation occurs and the beer matures. The two main ingredients are malted barley and hops and these offer such a great variety of flavour, aroma and colour possibilities. The number of different beers it is possible to produce is endless. It is this and seeing people enjoying the beer that makes it all worth while.
The Hops are supplied by Charles Farams & Co Ltd. a Worcester company dealing with the high quality micro breweries using traditional methods. Hops provide both bitterness and aroma qualities to beers. Hops are grown for their different characteristics and the female plant produces the hop cones we use in brewing. The hop plant is actually a close relative of the cannabis plant.