A sleek, streamlined creature, the cormorant submerges itself deep under the surface in search of fish. The slick shape of its body is highly evolved to allow it to become an underwater predator, but just as evolution blesses the bird in one sense, it pulls a cruel prank in another. Unlike most other sea dwelling birds, its feathers don’t produce oil and as such, it isn’t waterproof. It will dive for a great length of time but ultimately will have to bask in the sun, wings outstretched to dry itself off after a hunt.
“The cormorant is an evolutionary side step,” jokes Jim Lilford of one of Wales’ latest microbreweries, tomos a lilford. “We like that idea,” he continued, and the image of the sea bird, sunning its wings now makes up their logo and adorns their pumpclips. Like the cormorant, the three owners of the Llantwit Major based brewery have taken a bit of a sidestep.
“I work in pensions,” he explained, “my brother Rob is an electrician, and Rolant (Tomos) works for the local government sponsoring and promoting local businesses.” With day jobs as far away from brewing as a professional cormorant dryer, the trio are taking somewhat of a career sidestep but beer is where all three of the boys’ hearts are. “We’ve been enthusiastic homebrewers for donkeys years but it’s great to turn a hobby into a commercially viable business and we’re trying to get it to a point where it can keep its head above water and hopefully we can stop the jobs we are doing,” he continued.
Looking to launch towards the end of June, tomos a lilford are putting the final touches on their brewery with the help of a local grant allowing them to invest in new tanks and branding, but have already begun to make waves in the local community. As well as now being available on tap at Llantwit’s Swan Inn and The Gallery in Barry, their beers have been requested at the WAles Beer Festival next month.
When it comes to the beers themselves, tomos a lilford’s ethos is to brew traditional beers and ales with a slight twist, reflecting their strapline ‘Adventures in Beer.’ “We’ve been experimenting with some flavours and one of our stock beers is a rosemary ale,” said Jim. A golden summery beer, the Rosemary Ale accompanies grilled foods making it the perfect BBQ beer. Made using locally grown rosemary, it has proved popular with punters at The Gallery as well as with local veal farm, Marcross, who have used it to make veal burgers. Completing their core range is a smoky best bitter dubbed Personal Best after being conceived during the 2012 Olympics and an IPHay brewed with organic meadow hay.
As well as the trio of staple beers, the trio of brewers have also experimented with a honey and gorse flower beer made using honey from bees on the coast near Llantwit that have fed off gorse bushes. In addition to this tomos a lilford have a seasonal winter porter brewed using malt wine spices and citrus peels, and an earthy medieval recipe that uses yarrow instead of hops with the addition of bay leaves.
Despite the slightly unusual notes in their beers, Jim doesn’t want them to be “gimmicky” and overpowering. “They have interesting flavours but they are subtle,” he explained, “We haven’t gone all in with one flavour.
“We like the idea of matching beer with food and that’s where the mind-set comes from. We don’t want to overpower it with a flavour just for the sake of it. We want it to blend together and go with food,” he continued.
Not only do they aim to brew beer that they are proud of, they want to brew beer that the local community can also be proud of. “We want them to be able to say ‘That’s our local brewery’ and be proud about it,” Jim stated. “It’s really exciting getting involved in the local community and with local businesses and hopefully we will be of benefit to the area in the long term as far as the economy and the local culture is concerned.”
With a penchant for interesting but well-balanced beers and a business focused primarily on it’s local community, the boys at tomos a lilford are sure to do themselves and Llantwit Major proud, and are one to keep an eye out for in pubs over the coming months.