“Dark, foreboding and full of menace” is how Jay Thomas describes Neath Ales Black, his favourite of the ales his one man brewery business produces. 34 year old Jay operates out of a secret Neath location and set up the business after being made redundant from his job as a sociology lecturer. The brewery is the first in the area since the Vale of Neath Brewery closed in 1972.
Jay runs the business on his own managing everything from marketing the brand, brewing the beer and bottling up the product, but he says other members of the family still manage to get involved. “My poor retired father can’t keep away and I only have to pay my four and two year olds a couple of jelly beans to clean for me. Don’t tell social services!”
Like many students looking to save a few bob and try some experimentation, Jay started brewing beer while at university as he was fed up with mass marketed, bland lagers and fancied trying something different – and a little stronger.
Premium bottled beers have increased in popularity over the last few years with drinks companies seeing increased profits in this area of the market. Jay puts this down to people becoming savvier about big businesses telling them what to consume. “You wouldn’t go into a restaurant and ask for the most insipid, lowest quality thing on the menu, so why do that when you go to a bar?” he says.
Neath Ales are made lovingly with no additives and are all vegan friendly. Just Welsh water, malted barley, whole hops and yeast are included. The beers are matured for many weeks until they have reached Jay’s high standard and can be found in many shops in Neath, Swansea and the surrounding areas.
Although running a business single-handedly is a challenge, Jay says he is in it for the long haul. “It is an awesome vocation and one into which the true heroes will venture. As for taking on big big biz with their hundreds of millions of pounds advertisings might, bring it on.”