On Friday 11th September 2020 Dyfed Rhys Morgan, a KESS 2 student from Bangor University, gave an interview live on-air with Aled Hughes (Radio Cymru) discussing his research on micro-breweries in Wales. Listen again by following this link (the item begins from 1 hour and 14 mins) https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000mdgb – Please note that the show is recorded in Welsh.
You can read a translated transcription of this fascinating chat below:
[The item follows a conversation between Aled Hughes and Phil from the Twt Lol brewery regarding micro-breweries and the value of brewing whilst using the Welsh language to make companies unique within the craft beer industry.]
Aled: Welcome Dyfed
Dyfed: Good morning Aled,
Good morning, so you’re doing a PhD, you’re going for a doctorate in this area of micro-breweries?
Yes, I’m looking at different elements of sustainability within the craft beer industry in Wales
You talk about sustainability, how [the micro-breweries] work as businesses and how they contribute to the local economy etc?
Yes, well two aspects of sustainability above all, which is the community aspect and then their environmental footprints. As Phil said, they are vitally important because of the local economy, they support local people, the money is spent locally and they attract a lot of food and drink tourism to the area. They often open up their breweries on the weekends so that people can come and try their products and that is about as close as you could possibly get to the production of that beer. The people get to sit in the breweries and enjoy their drinks with the tanks there behind them and the connection with the product is so close to where it is produced.
So, do you start with some sort of map or some idea of how many micro-breweries there are,
do you have an idea how many?
Yes, the first step was to get an idea of how many existed in Wales, and this was back in 2017, and I counted 87 breweries in Wales, and this included the major international ones in South Wales and a number of regional ones that have pub chains. But from the standpoint of independent breweries I counted 73, but I’m sure the numbers have risen since then. Then I contacted all 73 of them to take part in this research.
You talked about environmental footprints. Are you, then, looking at the distribution chain and so forth?
Yes, for the process of measuring environmental footprints I use the life cycle assessment methodology, then I look at the footprints in the entirety of the value chain, from growing those raw ingredients and all that goes into that process; the fertilisation, the work that happens with the machinery and then transferring the produce from the field once grown over to processing it with barley. They are then malted with hops, and that requires drying, and then distribution onwards from there. So there’s an element of transport from the field to the brewery. And then the work that occurs on the brewery floor, how much electricity they use, gas, water of course, cleaning equipment… everything that goes through the brewery. Then how the brewery package the beer; do they put it in a barrel or into bottles? The transport from the brewery onwards to where it is sold, such as a pub or shop, and then what happens with the waste, is it recycled or does it find its way to landfill or incineration?
So, is the value of the industry one of the things you’re trying to discover?
It’s possible from the results or data I have collected to work out how much product is going to be used up. I’ve looked at about 10% of the industry so that chapter is yet to be written. But I’m sure I will look at how much the raw materials are worth to the industry in Wales. There is some barley grown in South Wales but it is all taken to areas of England for processing, such as malting. There is nowhere I know of that is malting the barley in Wales. And hops too, as Phil said, they travel further than any other product. There are a lot of micro-breweries here trying to differentiate themselves from the others. They experiment with different hops and this depends on products that come from areas of the United States, Australia and New Zealand especially with these hops that smell and taste “tropical” as Phil said.
Yes, as I mentioned it is very interesting work and a very interesting field, and Dyfed good luck with the work. I have to quickly ask, I know you have a background in engineering and you were training to be an electrician, but what was it, were you sat with a pint one afternoon and thinking, “I wonder what the story is?” – How did it all start?
I have always had an interest in the industry, and I used to brew beer at home. After working as an electrician for about 10 years I got to work with an engineering company in Chester, and then for the majority of the time I was with them I was working at these big international breweries across the North of England and South Wales. And then, after working in these breweries, it just sparked my interest in micro-breweries and the quality of the beer, that high quality and the value of the produce they make and how valuable they are to our local economy. It was something I truly had an interest in researching.
Great, and that’s what you are going to do. Very, very interesting. Thank you for the conversation Dyfed, good morning.
Thank you very much.