All the best things in life begin with the letter B. Beaches for example, burgers too, beer obviously, Bengal Tigers are pretty cool as well, buffalo wings are damn delicious, as are Bombay potatoes. But above all, Buster from Brecon Brewing. Buster founded the brewery in 2011 and he is also the Chairman of Drinks Wales, a new association supporting work to promote the Welsh drinks industry, and is the Welsh Director for SIBA; the Society for Independent Brewers.
Buster therefore, is a busy man when it comes to beer, and as such I was lucky to steal him away from his brewing duties for a quick interview.
How did you get into brewing?
A love of Beer, I suppose! I had got to a point where I wanted to do something constructive and career based. I knew a bunch of brewers from working at various beer festivals, and having seen their suitable degree of madness, I though I might fit in.
What were you doing before brewing at Brecon?
Before Brecon, I was at Brakspear’s in Henley-on-Thames. Before that I was doing my MSc in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt in Edinburgh. Before that I was mostly Sound Engineering. I also have a degree in Archaeology.
What’s your favourite type of beer?
The one in the glass in front of me. I take to all styles of beer (with the exception of fruit lambics), and different moods will take me to different beer styles. Some days it’s dark beers, other days the hop is king. It just depends on my mood and the offering.
Some very good friends of mine used to live in Brussels, and on one trip to see them, we went to a fabulous bar in the city, the Poechenellekelder, and a challenge was laid to le patron to convince me that all geuzes were not “off beer” as I described them. To give him his due, after some persistent questioning, on the third attempt he produced a fabulous Driefontenien Oude Geuze, which was delightfully tart without any of the aromas or flavours associated with serious problems in UK beers. I try one every time I’m there just to make sure it wasn’t an illusion!
If you weren’t brewing, what would you be doing?
Probably Sound Engineering or Event Management. I might have done something with my Off-Road driving, either racing, teaching or running events; who knows!
When you’re not brewing, what are you doing?
Cleaning the Brewery or doing trade events! Realistically in any spare time, working on my Land Rovers so I can go out and play, or help out with the Emergency Response Network, is high on the list. Otherwise seeing friends, chilling or the occasional bout of Quality Control!
What’s your favourite Brecon beer?
All of them, of course! At the moment, I’ve really been enjoying a special called Dark Skies – a dark Saison brewed with fresh raspberries and Halon Mon’s vanilla salt. The current seasonal, Daffodil has also been very enjoyable, but we seem to be selling it all too far away to go enjoy it. Of the regulars, Red Beacons is probably my favourite.
What’s your favourite beer of all time?
Obviously excluding my own beers for this.
Far too tough a call; there are many, many great beers, for many great reasons. I was once asked to draw up a top 5, and that was extremely difficult, but featured beers from UK, US and Germany. There are so many beers now available from so many breweries, it’s actually quite hard to keep track.
What makes a perfect beer?
Balance. To me this is the critical ingredient. A beer can be very malty, very hoppy or very full of something obscure, but all of the building blocks of a beer have to be there to make a sound structure that holds everything together and entices you to try some more. An unbalanced beer really annoys me, it shows the brewer doesn’t understand the basic tenets of brewing.