Beer and brewing with Tomos Watkin

Tomos Watkin bottling beer

In the week of St David’s Day we got the chance to ask some questions of Gareth Moule, Head Brewer, and Becky Parry, Marketing Manager, of Tomos Watkin, a brewery based in the heart of Wales, in Swansea.

Hello guys, so, obvious question first, how did you get into working for a brewery?

Becky My mum, Connie and uncle Phill both left school at 16 to take over the family business, which is a drinks distribution depot also based here in Swansea (called Hurns). This still runs successfully alongside Tomos Watkin Brewery, which they bought in 2002. I have always looked after the social media for the company but joined the brewery full-time last summer when I moved from London back to Wales. I now oversee the marketing, social and ecommerce aspects of the business.

What does a day in the life of a brewery roughly look like?

Gareth We undertake all aspects of the brewing process from preparing raw ingredients, brewing on our 10 barrel and 40 barrel streams, bottling, racking casks and everything in between. We also do contract bottling for other companies so that keeps us busy too! We also have people coming and going to check out our tap room and find out more info about the brewery tours we offer here.

Tell us about Tomos Watkin?

Becky Tomos Watkin Brewery produces a range of award-winning Welsh ales, all made right here on-site in Swansea. We have the capacity to brew a whopping 40-50 brewers barrels a day. The brewery has been based here in Swansea for decades and we pride ourselves on our Welsh heritage. We are a tight-knit family business with our values based firmly in producing the finest beer we can, whilst always offering a friendly and efficient service. We won the prestigious Family Business of the Year award in the Swansea Bay Business Awards last week which we are very proud of – it’s lovely to see our hard work as a family being rewarded and shows how much we love what we do!

Tomos watkin family photo

And tell us your most interesting fact about the brewery.

Becky It’s not about the brewery itself, but we think it’s very interesting and unique that our umbrella company, Hurns Beer Co., began because my great great grandfather Idris Parry began bottling mineral water from a spring that ran in his back garden! This then transformed into a thriving minteral water company that operated from Swansea Docks. He went on to make lemonade, cordials and soft drinks and the vintage glass bottles can still be found in Swansea – we have many on display here at the brewery and they remind us of our rich history and the family story that underpins everything we do.

Right, onto the important stuff. Beer. Why should we buy yours?

Becky Where do we start?! We offer a portfolio of amazing ales and truly have something to satisfy every tastebud. From our tangy Taffy Apples cider to our smooth Magic Lagyr and rich OSB, we’ve got the perfect tipple for any beer or cider lover. We also think the family heritage behind our brand is very appealing. My great great grandfather Idris Parry started our original company and several of his descendants now work at the business – we have a delicious dark ale called Cwrw Idris named after the man himself, and our bestselling Blodwen’s Beer is named after his sister! My brother Jamie designs the labels for our craft beer range and I am lucky enough to work alongside my mum, aunty and cousin every day.

What’s the best thing the brewery has ever done?

Gareth We have won numerous awards, including the Best Brewery in Swansea at the Jack Swan Awards 3 years in a row.

So I’ve got some pairing questions… your best brew to have with a curry?

Gareth Our IPA is full of rich hoppy flavours – perfect for pairing with the bold flavours and spices of a curry.

Your best beer to have with steak?

Gareth Our OSB is a rich malty beer, which would pair well with the full flavour of a steak.

And on a Saturday night, relaxing in front of the latest Netflix true crime documentary, what’s your best beer to relax with?

Gareth Delilah is a nice flavourful session beer brewed at 4% ABV – perfect to have a few and still pay attention to what’s happening in the documentary.

What’s your best selling beer?

Cwrw Haf, our golden summer beer.

How important to you are your Welsh roots?

Becky Extremely important! Our business has thrived for generations here in Swansea and we love spreading the word of the great ales of Wales throughout the country, and beyond. We love the rich culture that we are lucky enough to have here in Wales – the friendliness of the poeple, the beautiful scenery and the flavours of local foods all inspire and inform our products and branding.

Are many of the team in the brewery Welsh speakers?

Becky I have a decent grasp of the language as I studied it for many years at school, but would say we all have a basic understanding of the beautiful language here!

You’ve got the lot, golden ales, IPA, lager, dark ales, even cider, how difficult is it to keep producing that variety of drinks?

Gareth It is very very busy in the brewery so we all have to work hard together as a team to keep up with demand. We are extremely proud of our broad range of ales though – we believe we truly have something delicious to offer every beer drinker.

What’s the hardest thing about running a brewery?

Becky I would say it’s staying relevant in an ever-changing market. The beer and brewing landscape has changed so much over the past 10 years, and the explosion of small craft brands has meant an influx of choice that wasn’t there before. We work hard to keep up to date with the changing trends within the beer industry, however, we do really pride ourselves on remaining a stalwart of reliably good ales in the beer market – some of our original beers are fairly traditional in taste and aesthetic and we don’t think that’s a bad thing. We have come to be known as a brand you can rely on when craving a decent drink, and that’s no mean feat nowadays!

Tomos Watkin bottles

How important, in terms of revenue, are your brewery tour and merchandise?

Becky Our brewery tours are hugely popular and becoming even more so as we’ve recently started doing rugby-themed tours for the Six Nations. Groups can come in and enjoy an open bar and big screen viewing of the game so as you can imagine, tickets have been flying out! In terms of revenue, I would say the tours are key, more so than the merchandise. We are aiming to become one of Swansea’s finest event spaces in the future, and hope to branch out into bigger and bolder events. We have a great space here that we want to show off to the public, so the more tours and parties that we can hold here, the better! We want as many people as possible to see how wonderful Tomos Watkin Brewery is.

What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?

Becky What our favourite Tomos Watkin beer is!

Finally, what do you drink when you’re not drinking beer?

Becky I love a good old-fashioned G&T but, coming from a family based firmly in the drinks industry, I think it runs in my genes that I’m partial to a tipple! I like a nice Sauvignon Blanc if I’m feeling fancy but Tomos Watkin Very Berry fruit cider is my go-to. It just tastes like nothing else out there – fruity, creamy and dangerously easy to drink, especially on a sunny day.

To find out more about “the great ales of Wales” you can visit the brewery website, where you can also buy their beer and cider.

You can also follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, or check out some photos on Instagram.

Max Mazonowicz

Updated: Mar 01, 2019

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Beer and brewing with Tomos Watkin | The Digital Fix