Regular readers will know that I like micro-breweries, those which are using malt, hops, yeast, water and time to produce beer - rather than a huge industrial process that bears as close a relationship to beer as Sliced White does to real bread.
Recent posts have covered Tiny Rebel, Tudor, Waen, Dingle Brewing, and the CAMRA award winning Star Inn Llansoy where Kingstone and many other regular and guest beers are on tap. What I haven’t covered in any depth is Otley Brewers, though I have enjoyed their beers and ales at Abergavenny Food Festival.The Cilfynydd based company was started in 2006 by the three Otley brothers; Nick, Charlie and Matthew all beer aficionados who decided to branch out on their own.
Developing a range of craft beers they also took on a couple of pubs in the Pontypridd area with The Bunch of Grapes rapidly winning a reputation for its food under Chef Sebastien Vanoni. The commitment to using local ingredients sensitively and seasonally is the real power behind this rise.
Now in a unique partnership Otley have taken on the Kings Arms in Pentyrch, a Brains pub and are serving a range of their own, and Brains Beers. On the face of it a small brewery entering partnership with Wales leading brewer looks an unlikely partnership though Brains have recently started to develop their own craft beers as well as the more famous SA and Dark.
The newly refurbished Kings Arms opened with a flourish and a tasting of both beers and the menu. The weekend was dedicated to a beer festival with a Barbecue and live entertainment. Following on from the Welsh Beer and Cider Festival it offered a chance for those who missed out when Otley became one of the first to sell out!
Nick Otley led the tasting and introduced the Thai-Bo, a beer infused with Lemongrass. Lime and Galangal that actually tasted like a Thai Green Curry in a glass. The beer was developed with the beer writer Melissa Cole, and since then Otley has teamed up with several beer writers including the outstanding Pete Brown to enhance their range,
A nice drop, launched last summer as a seasonal beer, but clearly destined to be a session beer, it would also go very well with the aforementioned Thai food. In the same way as Tiny Rebel’s Coriander infused wheat beer could be a serious contender with Cobra in the Indian restaurant market Thai-Bo could take on the Changs and Tsing Tsaos of the Oriental restaurant firmament. Actually the flavours of the beer would be good not just for oriental food, but to accompany most chicken or fish dishes too
A classic Brains SA Gold followed with the “true taste of Cardiff” coming through strongly before a return to the Otley stable.
Croes-O is a golden ale using American hops and with a citrus nose and slight aftertaste it is reminiscent, but totally different to the Thai-Bo. At 4.2% this is another beer that would be good for a session.
Next up Brains “All At Sea” their craft beer and the first from the new Craft Brewery. An IPA made with a mix of Admiral and Bramling Cross hops a light brown beer that is remarkably thirst quenching, this beer really hit the mark. A second IPA “Barry Island” is on the way using American hops which will give a different finish and give a smooth taste but with a bitter finish.
Finally on the beer front I had to try Motley Brew, an Otley with a powerful 7.5% ABV. Nick Otley had explained that it had yet to settle properly and was slightly cloudy, but well worth a try. Ok there was a little opacity to the pint, but an amazing nose and a well-rounded but powerful taste in a deep red beer made it one to return and try once it had settled properly!
But what of the food?
Though, for the launch weekend, it was a Barbecue based menu man of the regular dishes were on. Several colleagues spoke highly of the Black Pudding stuffed Lamb. I opted for the Grilled Mackerel that had been line caught on Chesil Beach. This little gem was about as sustainable a fish dish as you could wish, and came with a new potato salad, marinated Olives, tapenade, an onion jam with a deeply anise undertone and grilled sweet corn. Thick pork chops looked to be an excellent choice and colleagues commented on the taste.
Chef Vanoni sources much of his meat from WJ George, a craft butcher in Talgarth, and the careful sourcing and skills of both butcher and chef shone through. I wish that I could have been there for an evening service when I shall definitely have to try the Mussels with home-made bread, the Pollack in Otley Beer batter and Madgetts Farm Chicken with a Chorizo and Otley Ale jus.
What really pleased me was that the breads were made fresh each day on the premises. Bread may be a very simple component of the menu, but it is usually the first thing that you try and a good bread can set the tone of the experience to come. These are really good breads!
Relishes and chutneys are also made on site and are available to buy to take home. Fresh Bread, good cheese or charcuterie and a pint of Otley Ale – what could be better?
I was impressed by the Kings Arms and will definitely be back. If I lived nearer it might just become my Local, in any event it is Great.
Most photos are my own but some have been shamelessly copied from the Brains and Otley Websites, and some from fellow blogger Gourmet Gorro who wrote his own review here http://gourmetgorro.blogspot.co.uk/
Visit UK Food Bloggers Association