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Trend-setting brewery’s vegan beer bags a food and drink Oscar

A North Wales micro-brewery with a range of vegan beers has bagged a top taste award at the British food and drink ‘Oscars’.

Dovecote Brewery in Denbigh produces exclusively vegan-friendly beers at its Denbigh headquarters on Colomendy industrial estate.

Among them is Dove Down Under, a 4.8 per cent strength ale made with New Zealand hops, which has just been awarded Two Stars at the Great Taste Awards, dubbed the British food and drink Oscars by the Daily Telegraph.

All Dovecote’s ten regular beers are vegan and so are the 16 seasonal specials they also brew which distinguish them from almost all other brewers who use animal products to clear their drinks.

The most common is isinglass, made from the swim bladders of tropical fish and which acts by causing the particles which cause beer to go cloudy to clump together and sink to the bottom of the brewing vessel.

But Dovecote chief brewer Richard Green, a stickler for tradition, instead relies on traditional methods, quality ingredients and time to ensure his beers and ales are crystal clear.

The industrial chemist from Walsall, in the West Midlands, was persuaded by wife Sue to turn his home brewing hobby into a business just over two years ago

They all adhere to the 503-year-old German Purity Laws which insist that beer can only be brewed from barley, hops, water and yeast and Richard said: “We just brew it properly and keep it for three weeks to make sure it’s clear.

“Some of these mass-produced beers are supposed to be made in 18 minutes so they need something extra to clear them.

“It was a conscious decision to make our beer vegan when we started two years ago so we were vegan before it became trendy.

“In fact, we are very close to being entirely local with some of the beers we produce which have 90 per cent Welsh ingredients and we are looking at suppliers of hops and barley in the Vale of Clwyd to make a really local brew.”

The success in the Great Taste awards has also come as a surprise, according to Sue who said: “We entered our Dove Down Under to get feedback and experience and we thought if we’re going to enter awards we might as well go for the best one.

“So, we were really surprised to do so well and the comments from the judges have been very encouraging.”

One table of judges said: “Well-made by someone who understands beer. Full bodied and with a good length of flavour. Great acidity leading to flavours of resin and leather. Great with food.”

Another reported: “A lovely amber colour and a bitterness that comes like a crashing wave initially but this is well-balanced by the caramel sweetness and rich, malty character, given a great depth of flavour from the hops. Really quite delicious and great complexity.”

Their beer has been on sale in the Strangers Bar at the Houses of Parliament thanks to Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane and in pubs from the Lake District to Somerset but almost all of their production now goes to the string of micro-pubs the couple have established alongside their brewing business.

In addition, they stepped in to help locals in their home village of Tremeirchion, near Denbigh, after their pub, the Salusbury Arms, closed last year and is now back up and running with a selection of beers from Dovecote and other local breweries.

Son Dominic and his partner, Rhiannon Catania, run front of house at the Salusbury and mum Sue is in the kitchen and elsewhere they have opened their own Dove micro-pubs in Rhyl and Prestatyn with a Dove at Denbigh taproom at the brewery premises.

They are also in partnership with another local brewery, Cwrw Ial, from Eryrys near Mold, with whom they have opened the Hoptimist string of micro-pubs in Abergele, Rhuddlan and Llangollen.

They have plans for more and they are proving so successful that almost all their production now goes to their seven outlets and they have plans for more openings this year with Wrexham, Chester, Ruthin and Anglesey on their radar.

Richard added: “We wanted to grow a self-sustainable business and that’s why it made perfect economic sense to open our own pubs and to do it in our own way with no piped music or electronic games but you can be sure of a warm welcome, good conversation and a great choice of craft beers, gins and ciders.

“The Salusbury is a traditional village pub which also serves food which is becoming very popular while the Dove and Hoptimist micro-pubs are more compact though we do have live music and quizzes in the larger places.

“Many people come to them who wouldn’t go to more conventional pubs, including single women who feel more relaxed in the atmosphere we create.

“We believe in the concept and we know it works, so much so that we are rolling it out further afield and our intention is that further expansion will happen very quickly.”