As we thunder towards summer we are pleased to welcome Aled Lewis to Wild Horse. Born and raised in Llandudno Junction, Aled joins the team as our new delivery driver and warehouse operative. A regular in the pubs of Conwy, he found his way to craft beer through drinking more traditional ales, and it was the full-flavoured, hop-forward beers like Vocation’s Life & Death and our own Palomino Pale Ale that really grabbed his attention. A guitarist in local metal band Morvo, and with a background in conservation, Aled is well equipped for long days of heavy lifting out on the road.
2017 has been a great year for Wild Horse. We have added staff, significantly increased our production schedule and are continuing to grow and expand both in terms of sales, and within the walls of our unit in Cae Bach. This was our first full year brewing on the 10bbl brewhouse and since the summer we have had all four tanks – 60bbl of capacity – full almost all of the time, and have added a new bottling line to get the additional beer packaged. Things have moved quickly and we look set to carry that momentum through into the New Year. But before we dive headlong into 2018 it seems only right to reflect on what we have achieved this year, so here it is, our 2017 in numbers:
3 – new staff members – Ryan in production, Chris in sales and Séan in warehouse and deliveries
24 – different beers brewed including two lagers, a wheat beer, a milk stout and a Medieval inspired dark ale
71 – batches of beer brewed, including 18 double brews
6 – test brews, two of which were not up to scratch and dumped down the drain
1933 – kegs filled
99, 404 – bottles filled, 11, 520 of which shipped in our biggest single order to date back in April
30.5 – the hopping ratio in grams per litre of our hoppiest beer to date, Double IPA. 37kg made up of six different varieties of hops went into a nine barrel batch
9.1 – the percentage ABV of that Double IPA, which is also our strongest beer to date
22 – different hop varieties used
20 – kegs pre-sold, before packaging, of our New England IPA, a brewery record
13 – hours it takes to brew a double batch (two brews in the same day) and fill one of our 20bbl fermenters, this involves a 5am start time for the first brewer!
9 – types of grain used to brew Breakfast Cookies Milk Stout
7 – nights of events held at our brewery in Builder Street
5.45 – average percent ABV overall of the 21 beers we have packaged this year
3.3 – ABV of our lowest strength beer, Pop Up Pale Ale
1 – number of beers keg conditioned and served through a hand-pull
Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year, whether you are a trade customer, an occasional drinker or a hardened regular, we couldn’t have achieved all that without you. All the best for 2018 as we look forward to an exciting year ahead – Iechyd da!
Check out the video below of our new six-head automatic bottling and labelling machine. Our Meheen M6 filler complete with in-line ELF labeler was built to order in the USA and supplied and installed by Yorkshire-based packaging solution specialists, Oasthouse Engineering. The new system is capable of running at up to 30 bottles per minute allowing us to package more in an hour that we previously could in an entire day.
Following our recent recipe swap and collab with Iechyd Da Brewing Co quite a few people have been wondering what Breakfast Cookies are and how the beer got its name. We asked Summer Lewis of Iechyd a Brewing Co how Breakfast Cookies came about and here is the story:
Everyone always asks how Breakfast Cookies got its name – well the story is kinda funny and revealing. When we were picking out floor tile for the pub, Chip’s mom was shopping with us. We were chit-chatting about what was on her dance card for the rest of the day. She said that her “breakfast cookies” were on sale, so she was running to the market. We thought she meant a new type of cereal bar or something nutritious, so we asked further. She said “Oh NO! It’s just pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough that I break apart and pop in the oven every morning!” We were shocked to find out that the mom who made you clean your plate now eats chocolate chip cookies every day for breakfast since Chip is grown and out of the house! We almost died laughing right there in the rows of tile. The name came first and we built a recipe to match that tastes like dipping a chocolate chip cookie into a cup of coffee. It was meant to be a one-off brew, but is now one of our most requested seasonal beers. Thanks, mom!
BREWERY SHOP OPENING HOURS, DRAFT BEER AVAILABILITY AND GROWLER REFILLS
Our shop opening hours are changing. From the week commencing September 4, the brewery shop will open between midday and 4pm on Fridays. This is in addition to our existing hours of 12-6pm on Thursday afternoons and 9am-1pm on Saturdays. Although we have always tried to be around on Fridays it hasn’t always been possible. Since taking on some extra staff earlier in the year we now feel able to officially commit to being here on a Friday afternoon.
However, after some agonising, we have decided that draft beer will NOT be available at the brewery before the shop opens at midday on Thursdays. While we love receiving visitors, as a working brewery with a full production and packaging schedule it is not always possible to give customers the time we would like. In recent weeks, this has meant that, on a couple of occasions, we have failed to reach the high level of customer service we set ourselves. If someone is going to make the effort to visit our brewery to talk to us about, and sample, our beer, we want to do what we can to make their experience a positive one. Unfortunately, it is hard for us to do so if we are in the middle of an all-hands-to-the-pump bottling run or at a crucial stage of a brew.
Our brewery shop is important to us, not least because it allows us to get direct feedback from beer drinkers on the spot. Macro-brewers the world over would do anything for that level of customer interaction. However, the shop was never intended to be an open-all-hours element of the business. By only pouring beer during our shop opening hours – whether it is growler fills, samples or drinks over the bar – and committing resources to those set opening hours, we hope that no-one will ever leave the brewery feeling short-changed.
Brewery Shop Opening Hours (4 September 2017 onwards):
Thursday 12pm – 6pm
Friday 12pm – 4pm
Saturday 9am – 1pm
If you’ve visited the brewery in recent weeks you’ll have seen us in a state of organised chaos. Having had a quiet start to 2017 – Dave and Emma even went on holiday for two weeks! – things quickly began to snowball and we have found ourselves constantly adapting to keep up with the growing interest in the brewery and our beer. The ongoing building work is the most visible sign of the changes, but there has been plenty going behind the scenes as well.
Back in February we sent out two pallets of beer (2, 688 bottles) to the online craft bottle shop HonestBrew, by some margin our biggest order to date. It was a great way to kick off the year and really tested our production and packaging capabilities, so we were thrilled when it shipped without any issues. Things stepped up significantly when, a week or so later, we received an email from the team over at beer box subscription business Beer52 asking if we were interested in appearing in an upcoming beer box that would go out to their 11, 500 subscribers. Viewed as a marketing opportunity alone it wasn’t an order we could turn down. However, at the time our daily packaging record sat at around 1, 500 bottles, so a fantastic opportunity to get our beer out to thousands of potential new customers also presented a few challenges.
Firstly, it simply wasn’t possible for us to package that amount of beer by hand in the time we had. It was a big order with a short delivery time and our dual filling head machine with in-line carbonation, with each bottle being capped individually by hand, simply wasn’t up to the job. Luckily, we were already buying empty bottles from Seimon at Mold-based Mobot mobile bottling and we decided to bring him and his Meheen M6 bottling machine in to help us get the job done. Seeing 1, 500 bottles an hour coming off the line – previously a full day’s work – certainly got us thinking and, as demand for our beer in small pack form continued to grow, and having worked with Seimon on a few more occasions since that mammoth order went out, we decided to take the plunge and order our own bottling line through Meheen’s UK distributors, Oasthouse Engineering. Our M6 should be up and running by the end of the summer.
But as great a job the new machine will do putting into the beer into bottles, it does not have an in-line carbonation capability. Carbonation is an area that has caused us some consistency issues in the past, as some of our trade customers will testify, and we have replaced over-carbonated kegs on a few occasions. A bit of reading and research encouraged us to try carbonating our beer naturally, using a spunding valve to cap the tank towards the end of fermentation. Our first attempt was on a batch of Dark Bay Porter back in April and we were chuffed with the results, the beer taking on a much smoother, more gentle carbonation. We believe it has made a vast improvement to the finished beer and now use the technique for all our beers, which again presented us with another challenge – how do you dry-hop beer that is already under pressure? The answer to that conundrum should be with us in a couple of weeks.
Having decided to completely change the way we package our beer we were suddenly faced with the issue of where to put it. We are currently running at around half our production capacity – selling around 11 barrels or roughly 3, 000 pints per week – but we have to empty a tank (we have two 10bbl capacity and 20bbl capacity) before we can brew again. That’s a lot of beer to store, whether in keg or bottle, so two weeks ago work started to double the size of our cold room by knocking through into our office. Eventually the office will go on the mezzanine level, as well as a staff room and small lab. For now we are working out of a 3m x 2m portacabin that is causing havoc with the traffic on Cae Bach. A new set of stairs have been put in while better storage solutions and, eventually, a remodelled shop and bar area are in the works.
To top it all off, next week we will be releasing the first in a new series of beers brewed using a Vermont ale yeast strain, meaning for the first time we are managing two yeast strains – WLP4000 and our house strain WLP090. Expect some bold, juicy flavours coming up.
2017 has been a big year for us already. On top of the changes to our process and the ongoing renovations at the brewery, our two newest members of staff have made a huge contribution, allowing us to, first, increase our production volume and, second, find like-minded outlets to sell the extra beer. We are growing as a team and as a business, and have learnt a huge amount in the last 12 months. Learning those lessons has helped us to make our beer even better and we hope to carry on learning and developing in pursuit of our ultimate aim, to brew the best beer we possibly can.
2017 continues at a gallop at Wild Horse HQ as we welcome our fifth member of staff to the team. We are thrilled to have Chris Holyfield joining us in the previously advertised sales role. Having worked in the public sector for a long time, beer enthusiast Chris found his calling after moving into the industry a couple of years ago.
“Beer has always been my drink.” says Chris, who points to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale as his entry into craft beer. “I love everything about the beer industry. I love the branding of craft beer, I love the community and how people get together talk about beer, whether in a pub or through things like Instagram. I love that you can go and visit microbreweries and see how and where the beer is made. I get excited by it.”
Chris, from Llanrug, will be handling sales, deliveries and new accounts and brings a wealth of local knowledge and experience to the role having previously worked for Conwy Brewery.
We’re excited to announce a series of Pop Up event nights at Wild Horse Brewing Co:
– Friday 14th April
– Saturday 15th April
– Friday 21st April
– Saturday 22nd April
– Friday 28th April
– Saturday 29th April
– Doors from 6pm
– Open mic night (free pint for every act)
– 8 awesome craft beers on tap
– Rotating artisan food from local producers
– Free entrance
– Doors from 6pm, live music from 7pm
– 8 awesome craft beers on tap
– Rotating artisan food from local producers
– Top quality live musicians
– Entrance and first pint £5 (advance), £6 (on door)
Saturday night music line ups:
– AP Cooper
– The Scapegoats
– The Darvells
– Dylan Glyn Griffiths
– The Storyville Mob
– The Magpies
– The Bortowski Swing
– Lost Like Alice
– Deckchair Protest
You can book Saturday night tickets in advance below:
We won’t send anything in the post – simply give your name at the door on the night.
Brewery location – Unit 4, Cae Bach, off Builder Street, Llandudno, LL30 1DR
As we launch ourselves into the New Year we are excited to welcome a new member to the Wild Horse herd. Ryan Hazeldine joins us to fill the apprentice role that we advertised towards the end of 2016, moving from behind the bar of The Albion in Conwy to behind the shutters of Unit 4, Cae Bach.
Ryan has made the steady transition from macro lager and Irish stout drinker to CAMRA card-carrying real ale supper and, ultimately, craft beer guzzler, over the course of 10 years working behind pub bars.
He said: “To me, beer was a mysterious liquid that just appeared from the tap. But eventually I became interested in where it came from, how it was made and different beer styles.”
Conversations with the brewers from Bragdy Nant over the bar at the Eagles Hotel in Llanrwst led to reading up on the subject of beer and brewing and eventually a spell working at the Great Orme brewery. Trying bottled beer from the likes of Brewdog and Camden Town drew him into the world of craft and keg beer. He brings energy, enthusiasm and an extremely welcome extra pair of hands to our team as we line up for an exciting 2017.
Craft beer will always be synonymous with hops. It was the early hop-forward pale ales and hop-heavy IPAs coming out of North America that set craft breweries apart from more traditional brewers. And while more and more brewers explore and interpret traditional styles – how many sours and saisons have you tried this year? – the liberal use of hops, particularly modern varieties from the West Coast of America, will continue to hold sway among brewers and beer-lovers alike.
For our latest 10 Barrel Series brew – the first in a series of single hop beers – we wanted to explore the qualities and characteristics of one of these modern hop varieties. We also wanted to celebrate getting our hands on what is an increasingly hard-to-come-by commodity! Simcoe is used in a lot of beers that we like. When we managed to get our hands on some, we thought it was a hop worthy of a beer in its own right.
Beer is made from four ingredients – water, malt, hops and yeast. Hops are traditionally added early in the brewing process, during the boil, to provide bitterness and to balance out the sweetness of the malt. They are also a natural preservative and have anti-bacterial qualities, hugely beneficial in a time before today’s modern standards of sanitation were understood, let alone achievable.
Modern craft brewers use lots of hops, and the amount of time hops spend in the boiling wort (unfermented beer) during the brewing process determines how much bitterness, flavour or aroma is extracted. Adding hops late in the boil gives a beer more hop flavour and aroma without adding huge amounts of bitterness. Adding hops to the fermenter once fermentation has finished – known as dry-hopping – brings a whole new hop dimension to the finished beer.
Our Simcoe Single Hop IPA contains 15kg of hops which were added throughout the brew and, later, to the fermenter, on top of a straightforward, balanced malt base. Our aim was to showcase Simcoe’s qualities – citrus, pine and earthiness – and to show how adding the same hop at different points during the brewing process brings these qualities to the fore. The result, we think, is a delicious and complex IPA that pays tribute to a glorious modern hop variety and provides a great starting point for future hopped-up beers.