Since popping up a little while ago, the gang from Newport have breathed a little fresh air into the Welsh brewing scene, which has it’s fair share of traditional brewers. Welsh beer, like its rugby players, has no shortage of strength, body and character, albeit wrapped up in packages that don’t shy away from what’s gone before. Which is why Tiny Rebel, well, stand out.
For a small outfit, their beers certainly get around. I’ve enjoyed Fubar on the bar in both London, Manchester and Macclesfield, their graffito’d pumpclips standing out amongst the others on the bar. Happily, Beer-Ritz have started stocking them, so I enjoyed a couple of bottles last weekend whilst watching the opening weekend of the NFL. And those that know me know that those beers that accompany my sports viewing generally enjoy a lofty position of being hand-picked for the role.
Full Nelson (4.8% abv) is their ‘Maori Pale Ale’ and, as the names suggests, is packed with Nelson Sauvin hops. A personal favourite of mine, I’m used to seeing ‘Nelson’ being thrown into uber-pale ales, resulting in super-floral aromas and quenchingly dry finishes. What Full Nelson does differently is it puts those hops against a richer Grain bill – and improves as a result. In addition to all those Nelson Sauvin notes that you want – Gooseberry, White Grape, a little Lemon pith – you get a nutty, almost bready underpinning of grain which gives the beer depth and flavour. It’s not an IPA, it’s not a palate-killer – its a well-rounded beer that shows thought and care going into the recipe as a whole, rather than packing as many hops as they can in. Adnam’s Ghost Ship (predominantly Citra) and Rooster’s Yankee (Cascade) are other examples of this kind of forethought and balance in ‘hoppy’ beers.
Urban IPA (5.5% abv) shows a restrained hand again in terms of alcohol – without sacrificing taste. Another beer leaning towards the Amber hue, the nose fair explodes with tropical fruit and fresh Pineapple and, on the sip, that fruit almost takes the front seat, risingly bitter at first with pithy citrus, before that malt comes crashing back in, sweetening everything up with biscuit and toffee. Perhaps not an IPA for committed hopheads, its balance proves it’s pedigree. It’s a fine IPA, robust enough to throw the gain switch up a notch in terms of flavour, but sweet enough to warrant a second bottle. Just to be sure, of course.
A quick glance at TR’s core range illustrates balance and nods to tradition, whilst at the same time being quintessentially modern; a couple of IPA’s, a clutch of Pales, and a Smoked Oat Stout. Nothing much inbetween – and that’s quite common with modern breweries, I find.
Tiny Rebel’s star is certainly rising, and I read with interest that they’ve taken over Fire Island, Cardiff’s craft beer bar in stasis (UPDATE – It’s just opened as Urban Tap House – here’s Craig Heap’s initial thoughts on it) - possibly at the expense of further expansion in terms of brewing. A more modest, Welsh version of BrewDog, perhaps? It’s Cardiff’s gain, for sure, and I wish them luck. That little hooligan Bear logo that lounges around their artwork is a charming little guy, and I for one would like to see more of him.