Every time we have a Meet the Brewer event, the brewery hosting always bring something new to the table. This time, Tom and Ellie from The Celt Experience brought along cheese. In what was a first for many in the shop that night, we were pairing a couple of Celt beers that night with a couple of Welsh made cheeses. We learnt pretty quickly that this pairing is something we should definitely look to do more of in the future!
The first beer of the night was Celt’s Bleddyn 1075,
a 5.6% IPA that has a flavour and a bitterness that belies its modest ABV. All the usual grapefruit and piney flavours and aromas that are associated with American and Kiwi hops were present, and don’t think that just because this doesn’t have the same ABV as others of its style, it has any less flavour, however. This was a big, bold beer to start us off and it also turned out to be the first matching of the night.
At this point you’re going to have to excuse my lack of practice describing cheese. I (Ben
) love it, but have a very limited range of adjectives I feel comfortable using to describe it. Tom chose a mature cheddar from Snowdonia to pair with the Bleddyn
and whilst it wasn’t his first choice, the two matched each other very well. There was a tangy, musty character from the cheese with the tanginess hinting at a tropical fruitiness similar to those from IPA. Pairing it with the Bleddyn
therefore helps to bring these flavours to the fore, making them shine strongly.
Celt were off to a good start.
At this point, Tom took us through the history of the brewery. Having worked briefly at some breweries during his teens, he foolishly left the beer industry to become an engineer. This, he soon realised was a mistake, and in 2003 founded Newman Brewery. After six years of learning his trade, he decided to up the ante and, having always loved Welsh mythology, registered the Celt brand and moved his brewery to Caerphilly. The rest is history (or should that be ‘The rest is Welsh folklore’!)
Next up we had Hallstatt Deity
, a 6.6% saison brewed with pomegranates that was then aged for several months. I will say now that I’m not the biggest fan in the world of pomegranates – in fact, I strongly dislike them. However, for the sake of this blog, I nonetheless soldiered on and tried the beer. I am glad I did, because it is a very good beer! There is that unmistakable pepperiness coming from the saison yeast, which blends incredibly well with the tart fruitiness from the pomegranates. The finish has a wonderfully refreshing sourness that never becomes astringent.
The pomegranate flavour does come through pretty strongly but unless you share my opinion on them, you’re sure to find this a great beer.
We then moved onto the Goddess of Spring,
and I think this was the beer that Tom was most excited to show everyone. Brewed with strawberries and raspberries, this saison was them infected to give it a sour edge, and it is the ideal summer beer. If you want something to drink whilst soaking in the sun, this beer is what you want.
The reason Tom loves this beer so much is not just the fact that it’s a wonderfully crafted explosion of sweet fruits in the mouth that never gets too sweet! But that the story of this beer is one which shows Tom’s slightly, should we say, rebellious side. A strawberry and raspberry saison, not terribly rock ‘n’ roll. The first time he brewed it, that statement was true. The second time, not so much.
In the weeks before the second brewing of this beer, Tom and one of his fellow brewers had been cultivating wild bacteria with which to infect the beer. This was pretty much done in secret, after Tom had been told specifically not to do so. What’s more, doing this put the fermenter used to brew it out of action for a fair few months – 9 in total – so that the beer can properly develop the sour, funky character that was desired from it. In the end, it turned out that producing this beer made the brewery almost no money. For Tom, however, that doesn’t matter because he got the beer he wanted and was proud to put his brewery’s name to.
“Phwar, what a bad-ass” I hear you say. And you’re right, but just wait until I get onto the semi-illegal bowling alley*.
We then started moving into the heavy territory with the penultimate beer of the night, Brigid Fire,
a smoked rye IPA weighing in at 6.3%. If there was one word to describe this beer, I think it’d simply have to be “cool” – think James Dean in a red leather jacket. This might seem like a weird description for a beer, but if you try it, you’ll get it.
The Brigid Fire
has all of the juicy, high, piney hop notes that you’d want from your IPAs and enveloping this bright bitterness is a smoky, spicy richness. The rye gives this beer a wonderfully deep mahogany colour and just helps to sharpen the edges of the hops, bringing them to the fore whilst simultaneously allowing the malt backbone to shine. My only regret is never having had this beer when BBQing over the summer.
Having to move onto the final beer far too quickly for my own liking (the Brigid Fire
is honestly awesome), we prepared to have the final beer of the night, Celt’s yearly collaboration with the French brewery Saint-Germain. 614 Annes
, a wonderful rye porter, was brewed to celebrate the 614 years since the Welsh gained independence.
With this beer we also had our second matching of the night, a pungent blue cheese. If you ever want to watch someone nod for about 10 seconds, give them a rich, velvety, creamy blue cheese and a glass of 614 Annes
. I, along with most people, were blown away. The rich, tangy, funkiness of the blue cheese was cut through so wonderfully by the toasted, bitter coffee and dark chocolate flavours of the beer. If this had been a pils that we were drinking along side the cheese, both would have been ruined. However, the strong, dominant flavours met and worked so well together, each providing the perfect foil for the other.
For me the Brigid Fire
was the beer of the night. However, the above cheese and beer combination was the revelation. This is definitely a matching I can get on board with.
Unfortunately, the night had to come to a close. Everyone left slightly tipsier, and far more satisfied than when they had arrived. The infectious joy that Tom takes from his beer rubbed off on everyone that night. What Celt are doing over in small valley a few miles outside of Cardiff is as worthy of note as anything else that other breweries are doing.
If you were unfortunate enough to miss this Meet the Brewer, keep an eye out, some new plans may be afoot.
*One of the revelations of the night was that Tom had decided, seemingly on a whim, to install a fully functioning 2 lane bowling alley at the brewery to enhance the tap room somewhat. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the necessary planning permission and a rather militantly fastidious council planning department have ensured it remains unused to this day (apart from by staff of course). So Tom issued an invite to the assembled crowd to come and bowl & drink great beer if ever they are near Caerphilly – it’s about the safest & funnest bit of law breaking you can do!