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Des de Moor
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Des de Moor

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Beer sellers: Meadow Farm Shop, Tyndyrn

First published in Beers of the World August 2008

No longer a land of keg-only closed on Sundays, Wales is currently one of Britain’s most dynamic brewing regions. The nation’s cultural independence and distinctiveness has been boosted further by devolution, including a renewed pride in its beer – whether from old-established independents celebrating their traditions, or the innovative new crop of small breweries springing from the hills and valleys of the mountainous principality. And many of them are finding that bottling plays an increasingly important role in the business plan, as craft-brewed beer complements other local produce in village shops and on market stalls for the pleasure and interest of visitors and residents alike.

Meadow Farm Shop blackboard

A good time, then, for someone to specialise in selling Welsh bottled beer, which is just what Edward Biggs and his wife Tori thought when considering options for expanding their Monmouthshire farm shop. They’d given up earning a living renovating property and opened Meadow Farm Shop as an outlet for their organic fruit and veg and homemade produce in 2004. Last summer they added The Welsh Beer Shop, and soon afterwards heard one of their suppliers, Kingstone Brewery in nearby Whitebrook, was to close. Edward, a former home brewer, seized the opportunity to buy the name, recipes and plant, which is now back in action at Meadow Farm.

Around a dozen other brewers from all over Wales are featured besides the extensive Kingstone range: Breconshire and Ffos y Ffin are best sellers but they also stock the rare and delightful Jolly Brewers beers, Otley’s stylish products, Conwy, Cwmbran and several others, mainly Real Ale in a Bottle. Beers can be enjoyed at the café and beer garden and there are occasional tastings.

Shop and brewery occupy an idyllic setting in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, halfway up the richly wooded western slope of the Wye valley, just off the A466 north of Tintern and almost literally a stone’s throw from England. A two-hourly bus between Chepstow and Monmouth stops at the bottom of the drive. The Wye Valley Walk passes close by, running through the gorgeous riverside Old Station countryside site to Tintern village with its haunting ruined abbey. Offa’s Dyke Path traces the dramatic hillside of the English bank of the Wye opposite. I visit on a fine June day when the mouthwatering smell of a fired-up mash tun mingles with the scent of wild garlic from the woods. “It’s lovely working in a place like this,” sighs brewery worker Mark Gardner with feeling.

Inside Meadow Farm Shop

“More and more people are turning to real ale, which has helped the growth of small producers,” says Edward. “We now have such diversity and the quality is fantastic, though some are a challenge to track down – I go straight to brewers themselves but even then it’s hard to get hold of some that are produced in very small quantities. We’re helping set up the Association of Welsh Independent Brewers to help with the overall promotion and distribution of Welsh ales, so there are exciting times ahead.”

Fact file

Address: Meadow Farm, Tintern, Chepstow NP16 7NX
Phone: +44 (0)1291 680111
Web: www.kingstonebrewery.co.uk
Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat 0900-1600
Drink in? Yes
Mail order: Only Kingstone’s own beers

Manager’s favourites: Kingstone Classic, Humpty’s Fuddle; Jolly Brewer Cwrw Du

Beer picks

  • Breconshire Red Dragon 4.7%, Aberhonddu, Powys. Distinctive and unusual cherry red beer that nods to Tyneside browns and Irish reds: nutty, twiggy, dry and finally spicy.
  • Conwy Cwrw Castell 3.8%, Conwy. Refreshing amber bitter with a Cascade hop flourish and spicy ginger and blackcurrant and rounded bitterness over classic biscuity malt. 
  • Jolly Brewer Taid’s Garden 4.3%, Wrecsam. One of several delightful beers from tiny brewery linked to homebrew supplies shop: pale, flowery, grassy, aromatic and citric refresher.
  • Kingstone 1503 4.8%, Tyndyrn, Sir Fynwy. Chestnut brown fruity, chewy and smoky beer with sappy chocolate finish, adapted from a 1503 recipe.
  • Otley O8 8%, Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf. Moist apple cake, sherbet, orange liqueur and a rooty hop finish in a vivid but well-balanced barley wine.

The Wye Valley landscape near Kingstone Brewery -- brewing inspiration.

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