Remember Old King Cole from your childhood? You know, the merry old soul in the nursery rhyme? The bossy monarch who called for not just his pipe and his bowl, but also for a trio of fiddlers? Well amidst much dispute and arguing between historians over the years, it is widely believed that the song was based on Cunobelinus. Ruler of the Catevellauni tribe that dominated much of Britain, Cunobelinus reigned in about 40AD, but did you know that it was his exiled son, Amminius’, fault that 40,000 rowdy Romans marched their way over here?
After Cole’s death, a power struggle broke out between between his remaining blood; Amminius and his two brothers, Caratacus (who is believed to be Caradog from old Welsh legends) and Togodumnus. A bit of a tell tale, Amminius went running to Rome for help, but in place of aid, all they sent was cold hard steel and death, for they swiftly dealt with his tribe before turning their sights on Wales. Caratacus fled north to Anglesey and Caernargon and joined forces with the Welsh Silures tribe. Good old Cararacus was eventually defeated and captured in 51AD however, and Rome’s rule reached a little bit further West.
Nowadays all that is left of their rule are ruins, such as the gold mines of Dolaucothi in West Wales. Using nothing more than picks and hammers, the Romans began to mine the area in 60AD in order to exploit the deep rich veins of gold that ran through the flesh of the Carmarthenshire countryside. The site of Britain’s only gold mine is now a tourist attraction, but it is also home to one of the West’s best breweries; Jacobi of Caio. Located on Penlanwen Farm in the Cothi Vale and run by brewing duo Justin Jacobi and David White, Jacobi’s beers, including Red Squirrel, Buzz Light Beer and my personal favourite, Dr Harries’ Dark Magic, are real gold dust and so I am delighted to introduce the blog’s first double team Meet the Brewer Q&A with Justin and David.
When did you first start brewing; both home brewing and professionally?
Justin: I started home brewing in my late teens; initially to get cheap strong beer, but this soon changed and it became more about the style and the interesting flavours obtainable. I lost touch with brewing for about 15 years when I was immersed in the pub trade but it gave me an opportunity to see what other people were coming up with. When I opened the brewery in 2006 it was really a continuation of my earlier tinkering of recipes. I can only brew to my own palate and hope people enjoy the same end results.
David: I first started brewing at school; purely from a scientific perspective, you understand! I learnt a lot. Extra sugar in the bottles and then putting them on the radiator does not get you a stronger beer, quicker! More recently, I joined Justin in 2013 when the planets collided.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what one beer would you want deserted with you?
J: A light refreshing beer would be the order of the day, earlier this year I was enjoying Hall and Woodhouse’s ‘Billy Stinger,’ which is one of many that fit the bill. Now, if it was a cold wind swept island I would hope Theakston’s Old Peculiar wouldn’t be too far away.
D: I hope it would come with free refills. Desert island; hot, dry, I think I would be ordering something crisp, citrus and hoppy. How about Adnam’s Spindrift?
If you could brew a collaboration beer with one person in the world, alive or dead, who would it be?
J: Tough question, probably Richard Branson as this is a man who can put his mind to any project and makes a success of it. He seems able to see what people want and ignore convention, which says something has to be done or be a certain way.
D: Edgar Allen Poe. A man with a thorough understanding and appreciation of beer. A man who said, “Filled with mingled cream and amber I will drain that glass again. Such hilarious visions clamber through the chambers of my brain-quaintest thoughts-strangest fancies come to life and fade away. Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today.”
When you’re not brewing, what are you doing?
J: When I left being a pub landlord to start the brewery, it was to give me a project that not only allowed me to do something I loved but give me more time to spend with my wife and kids. As the business has developed, the home time has diminished so when I have a spare minute this is where I spend it.
D: When we’re not brewing beer, we’re selling beer. Growing demand means more miles on the road – happily. If there is any time left, a bit of golf or I’ll take the family down to the Mumbles for a stroll and an ice cream at Verdi’s.
If you weren’t a brewer, what would you be?
J: If I didn’t have my mid-life crisis at the age of 30, I would probably still be in the insurance industry. Although I’m a different man now, I would have to work for myself, be creating something and ideally working outside.
D: Both Justin and I are ex-chefs, so a return to the stove would give the outlet for my creativity. Brewing and cooking both allow me to indulge my passions for building balanced flavours, textures and colours to make something which will delight our customers.
What makes the perfect beer?
J: So many factors come into this, as everyone’s palate is different, so it’s totally subjective. My favourite beers are well hopped and I like a good bitter finish, although not too harsh. Each aspect of the beer needs to offer something that isn’t detrimental to another. You can have a beer, which is well hopped with a more rounded finish or a malty one with a stronger bitter finish but they need to have some harmony between the components of the beer.
D: Beer is one of life’s great pleasures, and ale drinkers enjoy variety as a rule. I am no exception. I try anything new but if I’m eating, I like to match what I am drinking with the dish. A rich velvety porter is a delight with steak pie or sausages, for example, whereas bright citrus summer ale is fabulous with Asian food or baked fish, perhaps.
What was your first beer experience?
J: Being raised in Bedfordshire, the local stock bitter was Charles Wells’ Eagle. It’s what I cut my teeth on. It got me past that phase when I couldn’t bare bitters to thoroughly enjoying them. I owe it a lot.
D: Guinness. I went to school in Dublin, so it was obligatory. You would be surprised at the opinions the Irish can have about one beer; “The best pint is at…”; “They don’t let it stand long enough…” etc., and if any barman should let a single drop run down the side of the glass….. Oh, and cutting the head off with a knife? Invented by impatient barmen for impatient customers. “Off with his head!”
What sets Jacobi apart from other breweries?
J: I try to showcase the different styles and characteristics obtainable from using such simple ingredients. Our standard range of 5 ales are all very different from each other in flavour as well as their type, so that there should be something to please everyone’s palate. With interesting seasonal ales and specials I hope we can bring something different and exciting to the market.
D: Taste. The Jacobi Brewery is located on the site of the old Roman Goldmines in North Carmarthenshire, and we would like to think that the water runs over the gold and trickles down into our beers!
What’s the best thing about being a brewer?
J: Its being given the opportunity to bring an idea into fruition, exploring different flavours and ingredients and trying to pull them together into something special. They may not all work, but you never stop learning.
D: a) It’s an outlet for creativity.
b) We get a deep satisfaction from producing something which people really enjoy.
c) Regular and relentless quality control required.
d) We really can organise a piss-up in a brewery!