I’m just back from a bit of R&R in Pembrokeshire, Wales. I’ve already written about my favourite pub, the Farmers Arms in St David’s. It’s a place that has been making me happy for many years, but reflecting on the change in beer selection over the years really cheered me up this time.
Back in the eighties and early nineties, the beers on offer were from one of the “big six” — I think Whitbread, but wouldn’t swear to it. In the nineties, Flowers from Whitbread was still available, but beers from the regional heavyweight, Brains (Cardiff) became more and more popular, and eventually replaced the Flowers.
This year’s pump selection was Felinfoel (Llanelli), Crwr Haf from Tomos Watkins/Hurns Brewing Company, (Swansea) and Rhymney bitter (Rhymney). Smaller local breweries have taken over from the regional giant, just as more local produce has started to appear in the cafes and restaurants. I was impressed last year with the crisp bitterness of the Rhymney, and it was still just as good. The Tomos Watkins advertises itself as a summer ale but is much better than that — really full-bodied and malty.
As far as I know, the pub has always been a free house, so hasn’t been restricted by tie, so it’s offers a very interesting case study of how the market for real ale has changed for the better.