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NERAX and Welsh Ales

April 5, 2010

Back in February Phil Wyman from CeltiConnect toured breweries, cider barns, and the lone Welsh Whiskey distillery.  Last week the Welsh Ales and Ciders paid a visit to Phil in return.

NERAX – the New England Real Ale Exhibition, which focuses on cask conditioned ales, and ciders brought 45 British brews on cask to Somerville, MA.  Phil was on hand again.  At the Trade session in the afternoon about 100 people from various New England’s breweries, distributors, importers, and sellers were on hand for a workshop led by Mike Labbe.  Mike happened to be wearing a shirt from the Breconshire Brewery in Brecon, Wales.  Phil had been there last month and met Buster Grant, the Brewer at Breconshire.  Mike spoke on how to run your own cask ale exhibition, and the trade session included a time of cask ale tasting.

During the trade session, Dr. Phil Budden, the Consul-General from the Boston British Consulate arrived to CeltiConnect’s Phil Wyman’s surprise.  After a quick and happy hello at the door, Mark Bowers (president of NERAX) asked the Consul General to say a few words during the session, and Dr. Budden offered his hand in help to support the work of NERAX in whatever way he could.

Cask ale, unlike tap beers, is cask conditioned and served either by gravity or hand pump.  The statement of purpose from CASC (The Cask-Conditioned Ale Support Campaign – the mother organization of NERAX) reads as such “We are dedicated to the sensible enjoyment of top-fermented, traditionally brewed ales that undergo a secondary fermentation in the vessel from which they are served. CASC is a group of like-minded individuals who seek to expand the awareness of producers, distributors, and consumers about the use of traditional ingredients in, and dispensing of, real ales.”

During the tasting session, Phil had a chance to taste all the Welsh Ales which were open for that session, and a few more besides.  Breconshire Brewery had sent four ales, and two of them were available that day:  Red Dragon, and their award winning Rambler’s Ruin.  The Red Dragon was in perfect condition, and was Phil’s personal favorite of all the ales he sampled at the event.

Beside Breconshire Brewery, Otley and the cider brewers Gwynt y Ddraig (The Dragon’s Wind) from Pontypridd also had beers available, as did Great Orme from Conwy, and Purple Moose from Porthmadog.  Not one of these beers (in the case of Gwynt Y Ddraig ciders) was less than superb.  But, unfortunately, not one of these beers is available in the US, whether in a bottle, on tap, or by cask.  This is something, which the brewers, NERAX, and CeltiConnect would like to help remedy.

Great Orme’s “Orme” started off Phil’s tasting session had a full toasted maltiness to it.  Otley’s “Columb-O” was a refreshing session ale, which tasted as though the cider apples might have fallen in the vat.  “Columb-O” and Wye Valley Brewery‘s (a brewery just outside the Welsh borders in Hereford, but with a name like Wye Valley one almost wants to call it Welsh) “HPA” were very similar in this respect, and were favorites of some of the NERAX workers.  Gwynt Y Ddriag was a cider maker Phil visited in February.  On cask the “Happy Daze” cider was excellent, and worth a second trip to the bar when Phil worked as a volunteer for the Friday evening session.  Purple Moose’s “Snowdonia Ale” (another of Phil’s fav’s) had a nice fruity hoppiness and a long dry finish.

Beside these distinctly Welsh Brews, Phil had to taste a few of the suggested favorites:  Salopian Brewery‘s “Oracle” (English), Harviestoun Brewery‘s Bitter and Twisted (Scottish), and Lang Brau‘s “Amber Maerzen” (German).

CeltiConnect would like to give special thanks to gang at NERAX for allowing us to be part of the event.  Mark Bowers (pictured below on the right with Jan Williams), Mark Irwin (volunteer coordinator), and Mike Labbe – thanks for letting us join you.  We will do what we can to help out at NERAX North as well.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Grace Wilson permalink
    April 5, 2010 10:31 pm

    Great article,with the exception that it is Mark Bowers on the right and Jan Williams on the left (Jan was the former accountant for CASC and retired his post last year).
    The solo picture in the Middle is John Sheridan, also a board member.

    Grace Fairbairn Wilson
    Former Volunteer Coordinator for NERAX
    CASC Board Member at Large.

    • April 5, 2010 10:49 pm


      Thanks for the reply. I could not remember everyone’s name. I worked the front table sitting next to Jan. John I only briefly met, and so you have filled in the blanks for me. Hopefully we will meet on Saturday for the volunteer’s event in Somerville?

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