After spending far too long trying to find our destination, in an innocuous industrial part of South Wales, we arrived at Celt, to a brewery tour that was all set to begin.
We were offered a choice of three beers from the Celt range, all of which are stocked with Matthew Clark, I plumped for the House Lager seeing as it had previously escaped me. Tom Newman, who founded Celt back in 2007 with minimum investment and know serves as Director, has overseen the company’s growth from brewing in his father’s garage to exporting to over 20 countries worldwide. He quickly informed us that although listed as a Czech style pilsner, he felt there was much more to it than that and much harder to define.
The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) lists comfortably over 100 different categories for beer styles, but the whole team at Celt were keen to stress a point. The surge in higher quality, boutique breweries (I was informed the number of breweries in Wales is approaching 100) has brought with it rafts of experimentation and the clearly defined lines between brews is a thing of the past. And that for me is fine, whatever house larger was, it was great.
For Celt, consumer enjoyment of their beers is the primary concern. Tom stated that if someone didn’t enjoy a Celt beer, it would offend him. Luckily, we were gleefully good guests and managed to avoid upsetting him, although that was out of our hands.
With the assistance of Head Brewer, Matt, who came to Celt from the hospitality side of Brewdog and with no commercial brewing experience (yet an avid home brewer and somebody Tom described as having a fantastic palette), Tom began a tour of the brewery.
Tom proudly talked us through the ‘Hop-Druid’ a piece of equipment designed and built by the team with the aid of a government innovation grant. It works like a cafetiere infusing the beer in a unique way.
For me breweries like The Celt Experience sum up the way the craft brewing movement is, and should be, heading. Innovation through dedication to quality and growing attention for what it brews, not what it shoutsBy Melissa Cole
Unlike most breweries, Celt do not buy pre-crushed malt opting instead to do all the crushing on site to ensure the quality of the finished product. It doesn’t take long to realise that Celt don’t do much the easy way in an effort to produce the best product they can.
Driven by a passion for beer, the whole team at Celt are perfect ambassadors for the burgeoning industry. It is always great to meet people with such enthusiasm for what they do. A passion that hasn’t wavered in the past 8 years as the company has gone from strength to strength.
Second only to beer itself, the team have a real passion for hops. Using as many as 20x the amount of some other breweries who will remain nameless, mostly grown in Kent and Hereford. They dry hop their beers at the end of fermentation and overall triple hop their beers.
Next we took a look at their bottling facilities adjacent. I personally could have stood there for hours watching as the bottles made their journey down the production line but alas, there was much more to experience.
Joining us on the trip were three of the team from the Hilton in Cardiff whom I got to know a little better over a beer and cheese matching session, and later over an ill-fated game of 10 pin bowling (we will get to that shortly).
The session was run by the welcoming and enthusiastic Ellie. First up was the House Larger, I’d already tried this, but was more than happy for a second. Up next was Bleddyn, a balanced pale ale with a grapefruit finish and paired with Caerphilly Cheese. The pairing worked wonderfully well, in fact I’m sure all of them did as we worked out way through the range. Silures was next up and the final one of the three in our range. The Celt love of hops really came through here, it was powerfully hoppy with pine (from the use of spruce tips, quite unique and something I hadn’t experienced before) and tropical fruits.
We then encountered the rest of Celt’s core range. Brigid Fire, Goddess of the Spring and Hallstatt Deity, before venturing to more uncharted territory with B-core & Blood Moon, the latter of which we tried straight from the source, a rare treat.
It was then that the world of Celt got a little surreal but not from the beautiful Celtic influenced murals that adorned many a surface throughout. Hidden away through an inconspicuous door lay two full 10 pin bowling alleys. It was here that the day turned sour for me as my complete lack of bowling skill was laid bare as the team from Hilton wiped the floor with us. Luckily a late surge from National Account manager, James Smith saved face for team MC.
Mark Freeman, Executive Chef at the Hilton in Cardiff told us more about how they had come to stocking Celt. A Welsh alternative to the beers currently sold, Celt was introduced at the Hilton for the Rugby World Cup. He told us feedback had been overwhelmingly positive.
It's good that a worldwide Hotel company is willing to support local smaller business that can be found on your front doorBy Hilton customer
In future, Mark wants to stock more beers from the Celt range and put together a Celt and Cheese evening for St. David’s Day. With a refurbishment of the restaurant set to take place it’s important to the team at Hilton to sell local and do so with more knowledge.
The time had come to call it a day. Despite the despair from my second to worse performance I left with a grin. Celt came across as incredibly passionate and proud of their product, not just to us but to the team at Hilton. Unfortunately, the stories behind the beers often get missed out somewhere along the journey to the consumer. Fortunately, Celt craft beers with real character that speak for themselves.
If you want to give Celt a try, you can! Come and see them at our Edinburgh Boutique Beers tasting on Wednesday the 28th October, you can register here.