Caffle Brewery: Grans, gas masks and In the Grip

Caffle [caff-uhl]

verb 

  1. A Pembrokeshire word used by locals meaning to get yourself into a bit of a pickle.

“The name started with making beer on a small scale (fairly easy), to brewing on a large scale. You get into a real caffle.”

The word caffle, along with other old terms like Drop Squint, Sholly Amber and Kift, are all part of the language to a Pembrokeshire native but aren’t too familiar to the rest of us. For Chris Bannister, owner of Caffle brewery, using these words and phrases when naming both his microbrewery and his beers was a way to not only preserve them but also to pay homage to the area that he calls home.

Their classic pale ale is named after a swear word that Chris’ chapel going Gran used to use; Drop Squint. Their golden ale, Kift, means ‘something not straight’ or ‘doing something awkwardly.’ Sholly Amber, a dark ale, means ‘tipsy’ or ‘one too many,’ and In the Grip, a red ale, means ‘the edge of the road but not quite in the ditch.’

“At an early point in the planning of the business, we felt that being from Pembrokeshire, and loving being from here, the company needed to reflect this,” Chris said. “There is a wealth of history, culture and beautiful places we wanted to use and highlight as part of the business.”

Caffle’s beer is brewed in the Voluntary Church School in Llawhaden, which Chris bought back in 1988. After converting it and running it as an outdoor education centre for 15 years and then converting the staff accommodation into a holiday let in 2005, Chris admits he “got fed up with Saturday cleaning and changeovers so decided to open a brewery!”

Most good ideas involve a certain amount of alcohol and the same rings true for Caffle Brewery. “The idea started in May 2012,” Chris explained, “a wet week in the Lake District turned into a mission to seek out and try local ales.” After successfully seeking out and sampling a fair few, that same thought struck Chris which strikes many of us when slightly tipsy, or should I say ‘sholly amber;’ I could do this. With that, Chris put the cogs in motion to open his own brewery.

Like many brewers, Chris started out brewing in his kitchen. Back then, the smell of boiling wort would fill the house, but this was not to everyone’s taste, especially his youngest daughter who luckily received a gas mask for her birthday to save her nose from that great beer smell.

Armed with a fair bit of background knowledge of all grain brewing and a portfolio of recipes that “ranged from wow to woe,” the brewery’s journey began and after six months of converting buildings, finding equipment and bringing everything together, the brewery was up and running. “At the time there were only two other small breweries in Pembrokeshire,” he said, “I wanted to be the third and produce interesting styles of beer found in most other parts of the UK,” Chris said.

Chris soon found out however that this was easier said than done. “Having been a keen home brewer from a young age, I felt that running a brewery was just home brewing on a larger scale!” he joked, but he soon found out how different it would be. “As with any business, funding was difficult,” he admitted, “due to a lack of financial help, the project was scaled back and 100% funded by us.” This, however, turned out not to be a bad thing as they could grow in a controlled manner without the pressures of high sales and staff wages. It also means that they’ve been able to react to their customer’s needs and “develop a wide and diverse range of ales that appeal to a variety of ale drinkers.”

Despite initial financial worries and the fact that it can sometimes prove hard to get into local pubs as a guest ale, there are obviously benefits. Among the plus sides Chris says one of the best things is “having someone phone the brewery saying that they had one of our ales and it was the best they have had in a long time,” as well as when he hears someone comment on his beer down the local, or when holiday makers stop by the brewery for a couple cases of Kift Blonde as they are ‘from away’ and want to stock up before heading home.

So next time you’re down Pembrokeshire way, grab yourself a pint of Drop Squint, you won’t find yourself in a caffle. Honest.

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3 thoughts on “Caffle Brewery: Grans, gas masks and In the Grip

  1. Pingback: Save water, drink beer at Caffle Brewery |

  2. Pingback: What inspires beer art: Tiny Rebel, Tomos Watkin & Caffle |

  3. Pingback: Caffle’s Community Hops Project |

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