IN OUR CRAFT BEER STORIES WE REVIEW AND GENERALLY TALK CRAFT BEERS FROM BREWERIES THAT ARE LOCAL TO US, AND FROM FURTHER AFIELD ACROSS OUR BRITISH ISLES. TODAY'S STORY TELLS OF WELSH PIRATES WHILE WE REVIEW COCHYN RUBY BITTER FROM CWRW LLYN
“There’s a pirate on the bottle!” I said to the coriander as I shook my head at the missed opportunity, holding Cochyn, a ruby bitter from Cwrw Llŷn brewery.
The coriander’s fate was to be made into pesto, mostly because the basil is still having a tough time of it, which you can read about here if you really want to. While I can hear your curious rumblings about coriander in pesto, just try it.
To the missed opportunity:
Earlier today I was off the coast of Pwll Ddu, fishing rod in hand, aboard my father in law’s boat, absorbing some serious sun. I had considered taking a few beers along, but we were both driving and he’s pretty new to this boating lark so I thought a little abstinence was in order.
I got home and decided to make one of my staples, pasta and pesto, with the meager offerings the still very upset basil plant could afford to give and - to bulk it up a little - a handful of coriander. I was baking from the day’s heat, a grand twenty nine degrees, the hottest day yet I think, and my body was caked in brine and salt from a dip in the murky green sea.
"Beer has far more to offer than simply taste and alcohol, good beer teaches you something."
Beer has far more to offer than simply taste and alcohol, good beer teaches you something. Take this ruby bitter from Cwrw Llŷn for example, the pirate on the bottle is named Barti Ddu, or Black Bart, and a little online searching reveals he was a Welsh pirate. Among Bart’s industrious accreditations is the founding of the skull and crossbones flag, or at least an early version of it. He might even be the source of the name Jolly Roger - the Cwrw Llŷn website tells me - after the French nicknamed him ‘Le Jolie Rouge’ - the ‘Pretty Red One’ - for his tendency to always dress in fine red clothing.
"What I love about Welsh breweries is their fascination with history and folklore"
Well I’ll be. A Welsh pirate.
What I love about Welsh breweries, or bragdai - which seems especially true in the North - is their fascination with history and folklore, naming their beers after characters from both. There’s Bragdy Lleu, which I’ve recently reviewed, who name theirs after the Mabinogion, Bragdy Mona who use famous Welsh saints, and now I’ve come across Llŷn, with an array of beers named after noteworthy historical Welsh figures: there’s a bitter named Brenin Enlli, the Bardsey King, and a ‘Smooth Golden Ale’ named after the most famous of Welsh princes - no, not that one, an actual Welsh prince - Owain Glyndwr.
"The beer is a golden red, a shimmering bronze that is crying out to be drunk on such a warm day."
Cwrw Llŷn, or Beer Llŷn, have built their home on the Llŷn peninsular, that little arm that juts out of North Wales. They’ve been making beer since 2011 following what must have been a seriously good conversation over some exceptional beer. Beer can do that to you, inspire you to do great things, I give the coriander a knowing nod but it’s only interested in lounging in the sun. I’ve come to the garden with a plateful of pasta and pesto, with a generous dusting of parmezan, and a glass of the Cochyn ruby bitter.
The beer is a golden red, a shimmering bronze that is crying out to be drunk on such a warm day. I brought the bottle out too, I like to read the label as I sip, which always reminds me of that line in Pulp’s Different Class album sleeve; you know, the one that says “Please don’t read the lyrics while listening to the recordings,” - I always resented Jarvis for making me feel like a geek even in my own bedroom - I still read them. The illustration on the bottle, and the others I’ve seen from Cwrw Llŷn is marvellous. I dabble(d) with art but I don’t know what this illustrative type is called: the pirate character, Barti Ddu, dressed smartly in red, is heavily stylised, the artist emphasises simple shapes with a bold use of colour. The effect is striking.
I’m thirsty from the sun and a day on the boat, so I gulp the first mouthful - and the second if I’m honest - it is deliciously refreshing from a day at sea. I sip the next few. It is caramel sweet, with a spice and an undercurrent of fruitiness, a juicy hit with a malty finish, a little nutty - I'm also getting coriander but that could be from the pesto. The glass is drained within minutes and I wish I had more.
I’m going to buy another bottle just to get that photo of the pirate at sea during the next fishing trip. I’m also going to buy other’s from Cwrw Llŷn to discover the other Welsh legends. The passion a brewer uses to make their beer is clear, and sometimes - which I find is more true in independent brewing - their love for the local lands surrounding them is evident in the final product, in some you can taste it. Through buying local I have learnt things about my country I had no idea about.
Connie (dog) is looking curiously at me as I attempt my best pirate impression.
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