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...