Will chronicles the story so far of the Welsh brewery who were always destined for greatness and finds out how their brand new brewery is set to launch them into the stratosphere.
While there has been an explosion in the number of small breweries doing great things in recent years, there are a few in particular that have become big name brands in the UK craft beer scene. The one that springs to mind first is obviously Brewdog – the pioneering Scots that inspired so many to take up the art of brewing along with introducing the general public to a new kind of beer. England too has a plethora of great breweries, with the likes of Beavertown flying the creative flag and bringing craft beer to a wider audience. Across the border in Wales, however, it is Tiny Rebel that have made serious waves. Who exactly are Tiny Rebel? We spoke to their marketing manager Helen Campbell to find out a little more about their background and the exciting future plans of this rapidly expanding brewery.
Two guys called Bradley Cummings and Gareth Williams (affectionately known as Brad and Gazz) started brewing in a garage in 2008, and a couple of years later decided to invest in some bigger kit and start this brewing lark proper. Armed with a 50-litre brew kit and a shed load of ingredients to play with, they tinkered with different styles and flavours. Between 2010 and 2012 the pair experimented with over 150 different brews before releasing their first two official beers, Urban IPA and a pale ale called Fubar – the latter still holding a place on the brewery’s core roster. The rest of their main line-up leans towards the paler side of the spectrum, with big juicy hops being a recurring feature in their brews. It is surprising, then, that their most popular and flagship beer is not pale at all. Cwtch (pronounced ‘Cutch’, the Welsh word for cuddle or cubbyhole) is a hoppy Welsh red ale that makes up a quarter of Tiny Rebel’s production, and won the Champion Beer of Britain Award back in 2015 – the first Welsh beer to do so.
Speaking of awards, Tiny Rebel have earned themselves a fair few. In June 2013 three of their beers took first, second and third place at the Great Welsh Beer Festival competition – a clean sweep. The same year, Brad and Gazz won a Welsh business award while the following year Fubar won best beer in Wales and the brewery won best business in the Welsh Food and Drink Competition. Along with the aforementioned prize for Cwtch, in 2016 the brewery picked up various accolades at the International Beer Challenge Awards – Brewery of the Year UK 2016, a Gold Medal for Cwtch, a Gold Medal for Cali and a Bronze Medal for Dirty Stop Out. Despite the seemingly constant critical acclaim, Helen explains that they aren’t getting used to it – they don’t brew just to gain awards. “We brew beers that we’d like to drink and to keep innovating. Winning awards is a bonus. Flavour is the main aim”.
It’s not hard to spot Tiny Rebel beers from a lineup.
With craft beer, branding is often almost as important as the contents of the glass and the Welsh brewers have their brand identity locked down; each can or bottle is branded with their iconic bear mascot and signature graffiti art style. They really push the rebellious, independent side of craft beer with big graphics and colours to match the bold percentages and flavours inside.
Clearly something is working. Helen pointed out that the single biggest challenge they faced as a company was keeping up with demand. So, as of January this year, Tiny Rebel moved into temporary accommodation while they put the final touches on their brand new brewery. This move gives them the space and facilities to brew up to a whopping 9 million pints per year, more than ten times their current limit. Campbell told us a little more about the vision for the new premises.
“The goal is to create enough beer to meet consumer demand,” she explained.
“We also want to keep our family business ethos and it needs to keep being fun! We didn’t just want to build a faceless factory to churn out more beer – we’ve developed our new home to be immersive and exciting. We’ll be welcoming our fans into our own little world.”
This world will include a large taproom and restaurant area so customers can quench their thirsts right from the source. There’s a mezzanine level that will look down into bar area, along with huge windows so visitors can watch every stage of the brewing process. They’ve installed a new bottling and canning line too, so everything can be done under one roof. Customers will even be able to view it all on brewery tours once the facility is open.
The new brewery may be the biggest addition to the Tiny Rebel family but the company is growing on a street level too. They have two brewery bars in Cardiff and Newport, spreading the craft beer word across multiple taps and showcasing other exciting breweries from around the country. With the addition of the new bar at the new premises in Newport, these locations are a great place for Tiny Rebel to engage face to face with their customers and find out what works and what doesn’t. It also gives drinkers the chance to try beers that you’d be pushed to find on draft elsewhere. They have recently collaborated with the fantastic Weird Beard Brew Co. on Cardinal Wolf, a Double IPA that clocks in at 8.4% and can be tried in their Cardiff bar. And speaking of new beers, why stop at a double IPA? Captain Insano is the brewery’s latest release, a 10% triple IPA that has three times as many hops as they have ever put in a beer before. A can only release, it’s a beer that people are going to be talking about for a while.
A vast new brewery space not only allows them to expand production of their big sellers, but also gives them room to try even more new and exciting brews. “Everyone in the office and brewery can get involved in coming up with ideas. We might start with a style, an ingredient or even a name. We never stop trying new ideas. We’ll be brewing a new sour beer very soon”. The new brewery and all it can and will facilitate is set to launch Tiny Rebel into a new level of popularity. And as we have seen with their contemporaries across the country, national borders prove no obstacle for a great beer brand with their sights on the top.
Originally published in Issue 5 of Flavourly magazine. Written by Will Moss.