Tiny Rebel’s first pub has made a big impression on the drinkers of Cardiff after only 8 months of being open. But Urban Tap House has grown up very quickly – not afraid to take the reigns at the head of Cardiff’s beery army, the pub is quite public in its ambitions and its drive. Despite being the newcomers to the beer scene in Cardiff, Urban Tap House is staging a beer festival potentially bigger than “Wales’ Biggest” happening concurrently just across the road in the Millennium Stadium.
The annual Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival has been running for years in the nation’s capital. Originally in City Hall before moving to the Motorpoint Arena, the festival has moved to bigger things and a bigger venue for 2014, becoming one of the main parts of the Millennium Stadium’s larger W-Ales Festival, with whom CAMRA have partnered this year.
It’s a massive venue – Europe’s largest convention space – that likely won’t help the fact that many saw the festival in a relatively tiny arena last year as quite sterile and lacking atmosphere. Combined with the fact that it has been given a new corporate face by the partnership with the Stadium and the invitation of the likes of Molson Coors, many will be seeking something a little more authentic, atmospheric and
That’s partially why Urban Tap House decided to hold a festival of their own. The Not So Tiny Rebel Beer Festival is not designed to be a competitor to the Great Welsh by any means. Rather, it was conceived to compliment the festival over the road – welcoming beers from around the world, many of which have never been to Wales before, giving beer lovers an opportunity to take in a lot more over the weekend. A friendly addition to get the whole city in the festival mood, rather than retaining it in the vast walls of rugby’s spiritual home.
With 100 beers on cask and keg, plenty more in bottles and walls of cider boxes stacked high, Tiny Rebel may end up packing more different beers and ciders into their two-floor end-of-terrace pub than all the breweries in Wales will be taking to the 72,500 seat stadium.
It’s one hell of a challenge, but one that has been thought about very carefully and planned to perfection. Tiny Rebel posted the menus for each line 3 days before the festival began at midday on Thursday, to whet the appetite of guests and to show off the special stuff on offer. 14 cask ales on stillage plus a specially made 4 line portable keg bar will be added to the pub’s regular 18 tap line-up.
Urban Tap House is packed to the brim for the festival, and you can feel how excited everybody is about it when you walk in. Bunting, balloons and bowls of sweets, popcorn and lollies are dotted around, and beer nerds and bar staff can be seen jumping for joy over the latest beer they’ve tried.
On the main bar, the dedicated Tiny Rebel Specials line features a barrel aged Dirty Stop Out. This time last year it was voted the Champion Beer of Wales at the Great Welsh, so it’s been aged in Kentucky Rye Bourbon Barrels for the past 12 months as a sort of celebration. It is rich and warming with the flavour of rye whiskey, but the roasted smoky flavour of Stop Out still comes through brilliantly. This is one of the beers Tiny Rebel wanted to take to the 2014 Great Welsh, but were told they could not. So it, along with a Vanilla Oak Aged version and the grapey, vinous The Full Nelson aged in Chardonnay casks will be featuring at Tap House instead.
These are the beers that beer geeks are getting most excited by. Beers that took such great praise at last year’s festival with a very special twist. Alongside Tiny Rebel’s new prototypes, Praline Porter, Scotch Bonnet Stout and a Chipotle Chocolate Orange Stout, they offer one of the most exciting lineups of beer at any festival.
Over on the mobile keg bar is Harviestoun’s Ola Dubh 18, which manager Chris Rowlands explains he is “selling for cost. It would normally cost something crazy like £12 a pint but we’re offering it as something special and rare. We’re making no profit from it.” The award winning Old Engine Oil aged in Highland Park barrels produces an incredibly light, dusty beer, with hints of the heather honey from the whiskey giving it an incredible delicate smoky flavour.
There are lines dedicated to Belgians, IPAs, APAs, Darks, and interestingly NZPAs. New Zealand hops are very popular at the moment – Tiny Rebel use Nelson Sauvin to hop their pale ale The Full Nelson – so a line has been set aside to sample some of the more tropical pale ales made with some extraordinary and quite rare hops.
The vast, near empty space of the W-Ales Festival gives it a diluted atmosphere, with the appearance of Molson Coors and other “outsiders” giving it a very corporate feel. In contrast, Urban Tap House has captured a pub party atmosphere, matched by an impossible array of beer and cider.
At 5pm, word reaches the pub that the Champion Beer of Wales 2014 has been announced over the road. This years winner is FUBAR, Tiny Rebel’s flagship Pale Ale, which won Silver last year and this year topples Tiny Rebel’s Dirty Stop Out. After retaining their title as Welsh Champions, surely Tiny Rebel’s own festival will get a big boost, with such wonderful and exciting brews on offer.
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