Archive for February, 2013

WELSH CIDER – BACK FROM THE DEAD

28/02/2013

In a few short years Wales has become renowned for the quality of its cider and perry. A truly remarkable achievement and is testimony to the passion and skill of Welsh cider and perry makers today.

Wales has a strong tradition of cider and perry making. This is especially true in Monmouthshire and Glamorgan. This would be expected as the former borders on one of England’s cider and perry powerhouses – the three counties region. (In case you are wondering, the three counties are Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire).

Before the Second World War cider-making in Wales was, in common with England, made on a small scale by farmers as part of their agricultural year. It was usually made for home consumption given to farm hands at harvest time. For an interesting insight see the Welsh Perry and Cider Society (WPCS) Heritage pages.

Changes in agriculture following the Second World War led to less diversification and small-scale farm cider-making went into serious decline. Unlike in neighbouring England, where a few small producers kept on going, it completely died out in Wales.

This makes the revival all the more amazing. It started in the 1980s with a couple of producers but really gathered pace in the late 1990s.

There are now over 30 cider and perry makers in Wales and, although the south naturally dominates, it has now spread all over Wales, though mainly cider as opposed to the rarer perry. Our best known producer is Gwynt y Ddraig which is quite easy to find across Wales and beyond. Some of the others are small-scale and will probably remain so but others have more ambition and one rising star is Blaengawney Cider especially their more recent bottled product Hallets Real Cider.

As Welsh perry and cider is broadly similar to that of the Three Counties, there has been a push to rediscover and use Welsh varieties of cider apple and perry pear to increase the distinctiveness of Welsh cider and perry. A lot of work has been done to identify these and some of the results can be seen here in the form of a Welsh Pomona.

What is also key to the growth of perry and cider making in Wales is the WPCS. It is the most effective producers’ body in the Welsh drinks industry and has the makings of a fully-fledged trade organisation if development were to continue. It organises the Welsh Perry and Cider Festival as well as training in orcharding and cider-making. It has a number of other exciting projects ongoing and has secured Welsh Government funding to take these forward. I hope to be able to report more on these in the future as they develop.

Wales is now a fully-fledged cider and perry making region and the home of some fantastic products. It really is amazing what has happened in such a short space of time. Welsh perry and cider is back and with a bang.

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SEIDR CYMRU – YN ÔL O’R BEDD

28/02/2013

Mewn ychydig flynyddoedd mae Cymru wedi dod yn enwog am ansawdd ei seidr a pherai. Mae hyn yn ddigwyddiad hynod rhyfeddol ac yn dystiolaeth i angerdd a sgiliau’r cynhyrchwyr  seidr a pherai Cymreig.

Mae gan Gymru draddodiad cryf o gynhyrchu seidr a pherai. Yn enwedig mae hyn yn wir am Sir Fynwy a Morgannwg. Mae hyn i’w ddisgwyl gan fod Sir Fynwy yn ffinio gydag un o’r ardaloedd mwyaf seidr a pherai yn Lloegr – rhanbarth y ‘tair sir’. (Y ‘tair sir’ yw Swydd Henffordd, Swydd Gaerloyw a Swydd Gaerwrangon).

Cyn yr Ail Ryfel Byd roedd cynhyrchu seidr yng Nghymru, fel Lloegr, yn cael ei wneud ar raddfa fach gan ffermwyr fel rhan o’u blwyddyn amaethyddol. Fel arfer roedd hyn ar gyfer ei yfed yn y cartref a hefyd roddwyd i weithwyr fferm adeg y cynhaeaf. Am gipolwg diddorol gwelwch dudalennau treftadaeth ar wefan Cymdeithas Perai a Seidr Cymru.

Yn dilyn yr Ail Ryfel Byd daeth newid i fyd amaeth gyda llai o bwyslais ar arallgyfeirio ac felly roedd ddirywiad difrifol mewn gwneud seidr a pherai ar raddfa fach gan ffermwyr. Yn wahanol i’r siroedd cyfagos yn Lloegr, lle wnaeth rhai cynhyrchwyr bychain dal ati, diflannu’n gyfan gwbl bu’r hanes yng Nghymru.

Mae’r ffaith yma yn gwneud yr adfywiad yn fwy anhygoel fyth. Dechreuodd yn y 1980au gyda rhyw ddau o gynhyrchwyr ond yn ystod y 1990au hwyr wnaeth pethau gynyddu o ddifrif.

Erbyn hyn mae dros 30 o gynhyrchwyr seidr a pherai yng Nghymru ac, er bod y mwyafrif yn y de, mae bellach wedi lledaenu dros Gymru gyfan. Cynhyrchu seidr sydd wedi lledaenu, mae perai dal i fod yn rhywbeth prinnach. Ein cynhyrchydd mwyaf adnabyddus yw Gwynt y Ddraig ac mae bellach yn eithaf hawdd i ddod o hyd i’w cynnyrch ar draws Cymru a thu hwnt. Mae rhai o’r lleill ar raddfa fach ac mae’n debyg y byddent yn parhau felly ond mae eraill yn fwy uchelgeisiol ac un seren ddisglair yw Blaengawney Cider yn enwedig eu cynnyrch diweddar mewn potel – Hallets Real Cider.

Gan fod perai a seidr Cymreig yn eithaf tebyg i rai’r ‘tair sir’, mae gwaith wedi ei wneud ailddarganfod a defnyddio mathau afalau seidr a gellyg perai Cymreig i wahaniaethu ein seidr a pherai. Mae llawer o waith wedi ei wneud i adnabod y mathau yma ac mae rhai o’r canlyniadau i’w gweld yma yn y ffurf ‘Pomona’ Cymru.

Beth sydd hefyd wedi bod yn allweddol i dwf y perai a seidr yng Nghymru yw’r Gymdeithas Perai a Seidr. Ef yw’r grŵp cynhyrchwyr mwyaf effeithiol yn y diwydiant diodydd yng Nghymru ac mae ganddo’r potensial i dyfu i fod sefydliad masnachol cyflawn os yw’r datblygiad yn parhau. Mae’n trefnu Gŵyl Perai a Seidr Cymru, yn ogystal â hyfforddiant mewn cynnal a chadw perllan a chynhyrchu seidr. Mae hefyd wrthi gyda nifer o brosiectau cyffrous eraill ac mae wedi sicrhau cyllid gan Lywodraeth Cymru i fwrw ymlaen â’r rhain. Rwy’n gobeithio gallu adrodd am y rhain yn y dyfodol wrth iddynt ddatblygu ymhellach.

Mae Cymru bellach yn rhanbarth adnabyddus o gynhyrchu seidr a pherai ac yn gartref i gynnyrch o’r radd flaenaf. Mae’n anhygoel beth sydd wedi digwydd mewn cyfnod byr o amser. Mae perai a seidr Cymreig yn ôl, ac yn ôl gyda chlec!

BIG EXPANSION AT PENDERYN

07/02/2013

Big news in the Welsh drinks industry last week was Penderyn’s £1m investment.

What are they spending it on? Well, firstly, they are installing a second still akin to the original one. This is a bit different to the traditional pot still in that it is a pot with a column still on top and is a key part of what makes Penderyn unique. By adding a second still they can effectively double production and allow them to meet the demand in their core markets and target other markets in Europe, North America and Asia with their fabulous single malt.

Stephen Davies, MD of the company says that to meet demand they have to expand as they have hit production capacity with their single still. He goes on to say that “this is a significant milestone for us: ever since our first bottles hit the shelves in 2004 the quality of our products has shone through, helping us to grow the distillery into a company which sells single malt whisky all over the world. We’re already well distributed in the UK and are investing in new markets such as France and Germany, but expect to expand further throughout Europe. We have ambitions to explore further possibilities in North America and Asia on completion of the expansion project.”

This is a great sign for the company showing that they are doing well and are planning now for a forecasted increase in demand. Remember, whisky must age at least three years before it can be bottled so peering into the future isn’t a nice to do, in the whisky business it’s a must do!

But that’s not all, they are also installing a conventional two pot still plant. This they say will allow them to produce ‘new and creative styles and expressions of single malt’. Penderyn is a very high quality single malt, the thought of experimental styles and expressions is exciting indeed.

It’ll be a little while yet before they’re on stream and producing spirit as the as the partner to the current still is not being commissioned until August this year and the two pot still unit in January 2014. It will be very interesting in a few years time to compare the products of their pot and column still combination with the output of the two pot still plant.

Another point worthy of note is that the Welsh Government have supported this expansion, again showing that they are beginning to understand the potential of our drinks industry.

This is great news all round and will also be good for the Welsh drinks industry generally in that it pushes Welsh drinks to the forefront in more and more countries world wide.

Since day one Penderyn have gone for a quality product in quality packaging with quality branding. The last two are important but the first is paramount. Penderyn is a quality spirit and when allied with very good cask procurement and management the results are a whisky that holds its own on the world stage. Exciting times indeed for Welsh whisky.

EHANGU MAWR YN NISTYLLFA PENDERYN

07/02/2013

Y newyddion mawr yn niwydiant diodydd Cymru’r wythnos diwethaf oedd buddsoddiad o £1m gan Penderyn.

Ar beth fyddent yn ei wario? Wel, yn gyntaf maent yn gosod stil newydd yr un fath a’r un gwreiddiol. Mae hwn yn ychydig yn wahanol i’r pot traddodiadol gan ei fod yn bot gyda cholofn ar ei ben ac mae’n rhan allweddol o beth sy’n gwneud Penderyn yn unigryw.

Dywedodd Stephen Davies, Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr y cwmni fod angen ehangu er mwyn ateb y galw am eu wisgi gan nad ydynt yn medru cynhyrchu mwy gyda’r un stil presennol. Mae’n mynd ymlaen i ddweud bod “mae hwn yn garreg filltir arwyddocaol i ni: byth ers ein poteli gyntaf daro’r silffoedd yn 2004 mae ansawdd ein cynnyrch wedi disgleirio, gan ein helpu i dyfu’r i fod yn gwmni sy’n gwerthu wisgi brag sengl ar hyd a lled y byd. Rydym eisoes yn dosbarthu’n dda yn y DU ac yn buddsoddi mewn marchnadoedd newydd fel Ffrainc a’r Almaen, ond yn disgwyl i ehangu ymhellach ledled Ewrop. Mae gennym uchelgais i archwilio posibiliadau pellach yng Ngogledd America ac Asia ar ôl cwblhau’r prosiect ehangu.”

Mae hyn yn arwydd gwych i’r cwmni ac yn dangos eu bod yn gwneud yn dda ac yn cynllunio o flaen llaw ar gyfer cynnydd a ragwelir yn y galw am eu cynnyrch. Cofiwch, rhaid i wisgi aeddfedu am o leiaf dair blynedd cyn y gellir ei botelu. Mae hyn yn golygu nad yw cynllunio i’r dyfodol yn rhywbeth sy’n braf i’w wneud, yn y busnes wisgi, mae’n angenrheidiol!

Ond nid dyna’r cyfan, maent hefyd yn gosod uned gynhyrchu o ddau pot stil confensiynol. Dywedant y bydd hyn yn eu galluogi i gynhyrchu ‘steiliau a mathau newydd a chreadigol o wisgi brag sengl’. Mae Penderyn yn wisgi brag sengl o ansawdd uchel iawn ac mae’r syniad o steiliau a mathau arbrofol o wisgi yn un gyffrous dros ben

Bydd yn ychydig eto cyn eu bod yn barod i gynhyrchu gwirod gan nad yw partner i’r stil presennol yn cael ei gomisiynu tan fis Awst eleni a’r uned ddau bot tan fis Ionawr 2014. Bydd yn ddiddorol iawn mewn ychydig flynyddoedd i gymharu cynnyrch eu pot a cholofn a’r cynnyrch o’r uned ddau bot confensiynol.

Pwynt arall sydd werth ei nodi yw bod Llywodraeth Cymru wedi cefnogi’r prosiect hwn, sydd yn dangos unwaith eto eu bod yn dechrau deall potensial ein diwydiant diodydd.

Heb os mae hyn yn newyddion gwych a fydd hefyd yn dda ar gyfer diwydiant diodydd Cymru yn gyffredinol gan ei fod yn gwthio diodydd Cymru i flaen y gad mewn mwy a mwy o wledydd ledled y byd.

Ers y cychwyn cyntaf mae Penderyn wedi anelu at yr ansawdd uchaf yn eu cynnyrch, pecynnu a’u brandio. Mae’r ddau olaf yn bwysig, ond y cyntaf sy’n hollbwysig. Mae gwirod Penderyn o’r ansawdd gorau a phan mae hyn yn gysylltiedig â chyfundrefn caffael a rheoli casgiau da iawn y canlyniadau yw wisgi sydd yn dal ei dir ar y llwyfan rhyngwladol. Cyfnod cyffrous yn wir i wisgi Cymreig

STATE OF THE INDUSTRY I – Beer

07/02/2013

Beer is without doubt the strongest drinks category in Wales. At the last count there were around 50 breweries in Wales, the largest number for quite some time. At one time there were plenty of local brewers but the chapel revival and large brewers from across the border buying, and in many cases closing, Welsh breweries led to a steep decline.

Happily, as the figures show, this trend is in reverse and beer is without doubt Wales’ national drink.

Brains is the biggest brewer and indeed the biggest drinks producer in Wales by some distance, own a number of pubs and produce a wide range of beers. They produce some of the classic ales of Wales such as Brains Dark and SA Brain. Not content to sit on their laurels they have recently produced a craft series of innovative brews. Fantastic, shows innovation is alive and well even at Wales’ biggest brewer.

Although Brains is the biggest it isn’t the oldest and a link with the old brewing tradition in Wales can be found out west in Llanelli at Felinfoel Brewery which dates back to the 1830s.

Apart from Brains, the other producers are quite a bit smaller but some are keen to spread their beers far and wide whilst others are happy to retain a local focus.

A quick round up of the most notable names illustrates how well spread brewing is around Wales. Starting in the south there’s Rhymney Brewery, Celt Experience and Otley. Apart from Felinfoel the west boasts Tomos Watkin in Swansea, Evan Evans in Llandeilo run by Simon Buckley a 7th generation brewer – remember Crown Buckley? Also in the west is Coles Family Brewery in Carmarthenshire.

Mid Wales has Monty’s Brewery in Montgomeryshire and Breconshire Brewery and Brecon Brewing in south Powys to name but a few. Four of the bigger North Wales brewers – Bragdy Nant, Conwy Brewery, Great Orme Brewery and Purple Moose have come together to open the Albion Ale House in Conwy, a unique venture and a pub that deserves the many accolades it is getting.

Apologies to all the other great breweries not on the whistle-stop tour above, if you would like to be featured on the blog, do get in touch.

Throughout Wales there are great pubs in which to enjoy this great brewing renaissance so, when it comes to beer, no matter where you are in Wales, you won’t be that far from a brewery or a chance to sample its beers!