Tiny Rebel are the latest brewery to start putting their beer into cans. As part of the move to their new brewery in January they have invested in their own bottling and canning equipment and to promote having 3 of their core beers (Cwtch, Clwb Tropicana and Cali) now available in cans they embarked on a ‘can tour‘ around the UK.
I popped along to the last stop on the tour at Cotteridge Wines to talk to Gazz from the brewery about their move into canning and the evolution of the brewery over the last 7 years. There was a great atmosphere in the taproom with people enjoying the range of cans and chatting to Gazz and the rest of the team from the brewery. I grabbed a can of Cwtch (my favourite TR brew) ,Gazz and a table in the corner and started my chat…
I started off asking Gazz how he’d become interested in brewing and he told me both he and Brad, his brother-in-law and co-founder, “were not brewers or businessmen we were engineers and beer lovers“. He said he used to be fascinated by his Grandfather making ginger beer under the stairs and the way the plastic bottles expanded (sometimes to the point of explosion) piqued his interest in fermentation and as he grew up into brewing. Along with this whilst all his friends were downing pints of lager, he was drinking real ales because he wanted to drink something with a real flavour. The seed was sown.
Brad and Gazz started homebrewing and in 2008 started seriously thinking about going into brewing as they “wanted to see beers in their local supermarket that were as good as our homebrews“. After 2 years of planning they bought a 50L homebrew kit and in 2012 Tiny Rebel was born. Within 12 months they’d won Champion Beer of Wales for Dirty Stop Out, their smoked oat stout along with Silver and Bronze for Fubar and Urban IPA respectively. The brewery continued to go from strength to strength by the end of 2012 they had brewed 82,000L and by the end of 2014 close to 500,000L. The awards continued to come in with Cwtch winning the Champion Beer of Britain in 2015 – an accolade proudly displayed on the new cans.
Gazz told me that as good as it was brewing all this beer there were still only a handful of places to drink decent beer in the South Wales area. The market was monopolized by Brains and other big regional beers. So in 2013 Tiny Rebel, Cardiff was born. The aim was to not only showcase their own beers but also to ensure that there was a great range of guest beers which the guys had enjoyed but not necessarily in their region. Interestingly he told me that in both this bar and the newly opened bar in their (and my) hometown of Newport it is the Tiny Rebel beers that most people are drinking not the guests!
I noticed when I checked out their website before my chat (always pays to do your research!) that in 2016 they had produced a homebrew kit of Cwtch. I wondered how this had come about and it turns out it was their bottle supplier who came up with the idea. They asked Tiny Rebel if they’d be interested in collaborating on a homebrew kit as although they produced some already they were very traditional styles and they wanted to attract new, young, craft brewers. Since the guys had started as homebrewers they were happy to come on board and they are now working on developing kits for Fubar and Hadouken to add to the range.
The final part in their brewery story was completed in January this year when they moved into their new facility in Newport. The new kit will have the ability to brew up to 5 million litres using 2 side by side kits the second of which was due to arrive that week. The new site also includes the bottling and canning lines I mentioned at the start and this led us on to talking about the move into cans. The benefits are clear – the beer can keep fresh for longer, transportation costs are less, chill time is reduced and last but not least they are much easier to drink on the go (train beer anyone?). Gazz was keen to stress though that they are not moving away from bottles completely, some markets in fact will only accept bottles and some beer just tastes better in a bottle too. He also told me they will continue to brew into both keg and cask and that they have decided this year to expand their cask range from 4 to 6 lines.
I asked Gazz why, unlike some other well publicised cases recently, they had decided to expand their cask offering when others are reducing or even stopping cask all together. He told me he felt very strongly that cask ale is a “unique British product” and that “good cask beer is unrivaled” (60% of their output is cask). He started his beer drinking, as did many of us, with cask beer but he also recognises that it can be daunting now for new drinkers and that one bad experience can put you off it for life. The key to Tiny Rebel is that they only sell their casks to people who they trust to look after them, they know the storage and serving of the beer is paramount to it reaching the consumer in the same condition it left the brewery. If you want to read more about Tiny Rebel’s approach to cask you can read their excellent blog here.
As I finished my can of Cwtch (tasting super fresh and fruity), we finished off our chat talking about how sticking to their roots rather than moving their brewing to Cardiff or even Bristol has gained them great local support amongst drinkers young and old as well as plenty of press coverage. The not so tiny any more rebels from Newport are doing a great job in keeping both traditional cask and innovative keg, can and bottle alive and well in the South Wales valleys and around the world. I look forward to seeing what they do next!