AHNE Bryniau Clwyd / Clwydian Range AONB

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Beer and honey

We approached Phill Blanchard of Hafod Brewery when we were looking for someone to brew a beer with a difference.

Moel Famau AleA beer that captured all the appeal of the Clwydian Range in a glass. A beer, in short, that tasted of heather.

Phill was given a few armfuls of it from the slopes of Moel Famau and asked to work his magic. So he retreated to his new brewery, just a stone’s throw from Loggerheads Country Park, and began to experiment.

He thought about an infusion in the old Scottish ale style but decided that would have to wait for the three-week window when the heather was in flower. Then he had a brainwave. He set fire to the heather.

The idea was to produce a smoked beer – a Welsh version of a German rauchbier. He rigged up a combustion chamber which allowed him to smoke both the malted barley and the hops. He tried different parts of the heather and found that young leaves imparted a fresh, piney, fragrant quality to the beer.

“I wanted to produce a beer that would sell, a very subtle smoked beer that would appeal to a lot of people,” says Phill.

The result is Moel Famau Ale. A dark beer that conjures up the purple-clad hills of the Clwydian Range and even, with its smoky tang, the regular burning that’s needed to keep the heather moorland in tip-top shape.

You might have thought it was a niche taste. Not a bit of it. Moel Famau Ale has become Hafod Brewery’s bestseller. 

Now Phill’s considering what other components of the local landscape he can employ. Gorse, for instance, which tastes of coconut. Or maybe Clwydian Range honey, produced by 30 hives under the care of beekeeper Richard Jones.

In the spring and early summer his bees feed on the mixed flowers of the Vale of Clwyd. Then at the end of July he moves them to the foothills of Moel Famau, within reach of the abundant flowering heather. And once they start producing sumptuous heather honey, not even Phill would think of making beer from it.

Because this honey is for connoisseurs. Most of it will be sold as cut comb, the most highly prized of all honey. From October onwards, look out for it in local farm shops and in Caffi Florence and the Clwydian Range Centre at Loggerheads Country Park.

Want to know more?

Hafod Brewing Company

07901 386638

www.welshbeer.com

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