When we come to the end of our careers, after a lifetime spent working 9-5, five days a week, most of us will undoubtedly dream of hanging up our work boots, donning a pair of tartan slippers, putting our feet up in front of an open fire and retiring with the paper. Retirement is supposed to be the best time of your life after all; the golden years where you can relax and enjoy your life’s labours. Not Gwynne Thomas however, who has no desire to sit still.
“I wanted to set up a commercial brewery as a retirement project to keep me occupied,” the qualified chemist said. Having been interested in brewing since he was legally able to drink the stuff, Gwynne however found his retirement plan being bought forward 20 years thanks to a cocktail of circumstances.
A lack of freedom in his job combined with the availability of grant money and brewing equipment, which was more affordable through Porter Brewing Installations, meant that the time was right to grab life by the bottle caps and start a brewery.
“I felt that myself, as a qualified chemist, (with technical and creative skills) and my wife (with organisational skills and an attention to detail) were a good combination to run a brewery,” and with that Conwy Brewery was born.
Having celebrated their tenth anniversary last year, the brewery, located in Llysfaen in North Wales, has gone from strength to strength, picked up their fair share of awards, runs The Albion Ale House in conjunction with Great Orme, Nant and Purple Moose breweries and now encapsulates three beer brands.
Alongside their traditional Conwy and Seasonal brands, the newest member of the team is West Coast Brewing that allows Gwynne to cater for a more hop led pallet that favours the stronger American style IPAs. “I wanted to create a new brand that reflected where the market was going,” said the brewer. “Yes, it was also to experiment with new recipes and ideas but this is always the case,” he continued.
Such experimentation has seen the brewery branch away from its more conventional ales and as well as brewing a black IPA, a saison and a honey porter, it has also given life to Sunday Toast, a porter brewed using the juices of roast lamb.
“You get ideas and inspiration by being open-minded and listening to other brewers,” Gwynne explained, “I also enjoy experimenting with food.”
“I enjoy playing around with new recipes to keep it interesting for me and my staff,” he continued.
As well as experimenting with new styles and recipes, Conwy have worked to re-brew a blast from the past. Dobbin’s Yakima Grande Pale Ale, originally brewed back in the early ‘90s by Conwy’s brewery installer, Brendan Dobbin, is a reincarnation of the beer and Gwynne has worked closely with the man himself to recreate the hop driven beer that was well ahead of its time.
Conwy have continued to chase the dream for over a decade and their innovativeness and adaptability have allowed them to continually cater for a variety of beer tastes, and as such will no doubt continue to do so, well into Gwynne’s retirement, whenever that comes around.