Wales might be better known for its bloody great red dragon, but the creature that represents the ales of North Wales is slightly more friendly; a little purple moose.
Owned by Lawrence Washington, a former home brewer, volunteer railway worker and music graduate, The Purple Moose Brewery burst onto the Welsh brewing scene in 2005 in the historic harbor town of Porthmadog with its first beer, a pale ale called No. 1. Since then Lawrence and his brewery have picked up more awards than you can tie to a moose’s back, including grabbing the Silver medal in the recent Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival for Dark Side of the Moose (a brilliant beauty that clearly shows Lawrence hasn’t forgotten his musical roots). It is with great honour therefore, that I introduce you to the man behind the moose, Mr. Lawrence Washington.
I began home brewing in 1995 on the back of getting a music degree at Huddersfield University and discovering the great world of cask beer with fellow musicians. I took it quite seriously though. I read up on it, bought raw ingredients and worked out my own recipes. I even had a ‘proper’ home brew mash tun and copper. No home brew kits were used in the making of this brewery!
What is your history in brewing?
Having made some interesting home brews for a few years I felt I could quite fancy a career doing this. Very naive, I know! I managed to get some experience working on and off at a small commercial brewery in Somerset, through a friend of a friend, which proved to be very useful in understanding the amount of work and effort that goes into running such a business. From there I basically took the plunge and set up Purple Moose Brewery. We began brewing in June 2005. I did the first 150 brews myself before we took on another brewer in 2006. We now have three brewers, other than myself, and I sadly do very little of the brewing these days, having to spend most of my time in the office!
If you were stranded on a desert island and one beer got washed up with you, what would you want it to be?
Gales Prize Old Ale. Ideally from the time before Fullers took it over, with the cork in the top. It’d have to be a crate though ‘cos the 330ml bottle they used to come in wouldn’t last long!
What were you doing prior to brewing?
I used to work in my father’s printing company in Cheltenham, other than that, studying music in Huddersfield.
When you’re not brewing, what are you doing?
Outside of work, other than spending time with my family, I go out running, rowing and mountain walking, and occasionally do a bit of voluntary work on the Ffestiniog Railway. I have to try and keep fit now I spend most of my time sitting in front of a computer! I also enjoy the local pub quiz once a week.
If you weren’t a brewer, what would you be?
Mmm… interesting. I think it’d have to be something either working with wildlife or in the space industry.
If you could brew a collaboration beer with anyone, alive or dead, real or fictional, who would it be?
What’s your favourite Purple Moose beer?
Dark Side of the Moose.