The Big Hop - Part 4 - Cwrw Ial Community Brewing

Here we are at our last stop on our first Big Hop, finishing up in the village of Llanarmon yn Ial at Cwrw Ial Community Brewing Company, and our first experience of a social enterprise brewery.

Let us tell you, there's a few hills between Wrexham and there. Due to a slight error on our directions (I'd programmed in our hotel postcode thinking it was right next door to the brewery), we managed to go up and down a few of them more than once, as well as end up some places we hadn't intended to!

Once we'd managed to get something like close to the right location, we plumbed in the postcode for the brewery and dutifully followed the last few turns and directions - to a field at some crossroads. Nothing we could see remotely resembled a brewery.


"Let's ring them" I said. No signal.

"Let's pedal up this hill to get a signal" I said. Still no signal.

"You're an idiot" said Nick. 

Right. This was awkward. Middle of nowhere, no technology to assist, late to see a brewer who was in the middle of casking. "Let's pedal down to that farm down there and ask if they know where it is" I said. Freewheeling down the hill looking for signs of life (there was none) I happened to spot the now familiar giveaway of some casks stacked outside a giant barn building, and then, just faintly, the familiar whiff of hops. It really is becoming a good way of discovering these places when you don't know exactly where they are!

So a little late, but very pleased to have finally found it, we arrived at Cwrw Ial and met head of the set up Doug and colleague Dave, who were indeed right in the middle of casking up the latest brew. Doug handed us some of his favourite 'Limestone Cowboy' to try, whilst we chatted about the brewery and set-up. We made some effort towards helping put a few of the casks in the store before getting some brewery activity on film, after which Doug led us to our stay for the night (The Raven Inn, also a community-run enterprise of which Doug is cellarman) via one of his locals - The Rose and Crown for a swift pint and the location for our interview.


Doug saw us to the door of The Raven, before bidding us goodbye. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there - it's a fantastic pub run by local volunteers. It's what rural pubs should be, independent, full of character(s) and with good beer and hearty food on offer. We couldn't have been made to feel any more welcome! Several pints were consumed including Cwrw Ial's very own 'Volunteer' - a superb light, copper coloured session ale, along with Big Hand Brewing's 'Zeta 2' and Heavy Industry Brewing's 'Nelson's Eye' - clearly The Raven definitely supports the local brewing scene!

Over to Doug now, to give you his take on our questions...

Interview starts at 1.48, and Ride GPX (Wrexham to Llanarmon yn Ial in a roundabout fashion) is available here.

Music is Axiom 'Fusiform'.


The Big Hop - Part 3 - Axiom Brewing

Quite literally round the corner from Big Hand, James has set up Axiom Brewing. No need for a map to get here as the brewer himself guided us on the short spin round to the brewery. Yep, that's him up front in the video.

James is justifiably proud of his self-build 4BBL kit. Financed solely by his full time job, no credit, loans or the like - just a lot of effort, time and attention to detail. We were privileged enough to try a sample of his first 'proper' brew on the kit -  a golden pale named 'New Dawn', fresh from the fermenter. Even at this stage in the process, it's clear that all James's preparation and planning is going to pay off - it tasted fantastic, a great hoppy and (once conditioned of course) golden ale. Wrexham and beyond is in for a treat!

Over to James now to give you the low down on Axiom, and his views on all things beer...

The ride GPX is part of the day's riding available here.

Music is Anitek (of course) and believe it or not this one is called 'Axiom'!

The Big Hop - Part 2 - Big Hand Brewing

So, onto part two of our little beer odyssey… Big Hand Brewing, based on the outskirts of Wrexham. A relatively short spin from our first stop of Frodsham Brewery, at a little over 20 miles away.

We can safely say there's lovely cycling to be had around these parts as the majority of the next 10 miles or so was up and down (vertically speaking, not emotionally) some great countryside which joins this part of Cheshire with North Wales. 

With the sun putting in a stirling appearance, we made good time - good enough to stop in Tarvin for a bit of ride fuel, before cracking on the last push into Wrexham.

Big Hand Brewing is based on Redwither Business Park, and is family owned and run by uncle and nephew team David Shaw and Andy Benson. In sole charge of the 10bbl set-up in David's absence was Andy, who showed us round the brewery before we set up ready for the interview. Joining him to greet us was James from Axiom - there to guide us to his brewery afterwards (or maybe to hear our questions so he was ready for them when his turn came!)  We were treated to samples (between us!) of a few of their fine beers - Epsilon,  Zeta, King's Bane and 11 Knights amongst others, before it was down to the task of putting our questions to Andy.

On a side note, Big Hand have recently started opening up the brewery running monthly 'Weekend Wind Down' events where several of their beers are on tap - check their Facebook page for updates as to when these are. Additionally, they are also taking part in the upcoming Wrexham Ale Trail, which looks like a great event - 13 pub stops (one of which is the brewery), and all by bus!

David at the bar (image courtesy of Big Hand Brewing)

David at the bar (image courtesy of Big Hand Brewing)

David and Andy (image courtesy of Big Hand Brewing)

David and Andy (image courtesy of Big Hand Brewing)

Time to hand over to Andy to tell you more about the brewery. For those less interested in footage of us trundling around the countryside, the interview starts at 2.00.

GPX file - which covers the route to Frodsham through to Wrexham is available here.

Soundtrack - Anitek 'The 3rd'

Next up - Axiom Brewing, Wrexham

The Big Hop - Part 1 - Frodsham Brewery

With us having mainly covered breweries local to us so far on the blog, we decided a few months back that a good plan may be to identify places a little further afield and combine several visits into bumper editions done over a few days.

So, although it's been a little while in the planning (let me tell you, it's logistically a lot of fun trying to arrange suitable days and times between breweries, along with ride times and stopovers!), here's our first 'Big Hop'.

This one has us meeting the folk of Frodsham Brewery, Big Hand Brewing, Axiom Brewing and Cwrw Ial Brewery, and entailed a 150 mile round trip through Cheshire and into the Welsh borders.

First up is Frodsham Brewery, a beautifully located micro nestled up on the hill just on the outskirts of Frodsham, run by Barrie Davidson and his wife Hazel. The 10bbl kit is used to produce some 17 different beers, all of which were available from the brewery shop - what a shame we were cycling!

After our chat, Barrie showed us round the brewery, before insisting we had a third of a pint of 'Danny', a lovely golden ale brewed to raise funds for the restoration of a steam tug boat named 'Daniel Adamson' - more information on that here

We'll definitely be heading back - it's well worth a visit if you are in the area! 

As ever, it's over to the brewer himself now to give you the lowdown on Frodsham Brewery, so enough of our yakking...


GPX file - which covers the route to Frodsham through to Wrexham is availble here.

Soundtrack - Anitek 'Strange Sensations'

Next up - Big Hand Brewing, Wrexham