Last weekend saw the bi-annual trip with my eldest daughter, long time friend and his daughter. This normally sees us head off to one of the national parks and this winter trip was no exception with Llanberis being our base for 3 days in North Wales. North Wales is a place I’m rediscovering after a long time away, this will be my third trip in a year to the area and after exploring all the way from Devils Bridge near Aberystwyth in South to Caernarfon in the North and many places in between it hasn’t disappointed me yet as a place or from a food or drink perspective.
Portmeirion Village remains one of my favourite places to visit in the area, but the beauty of the landscapes around the region as you drive around can make for a good day alone. The drive from Bets-y-Coed to Llanberis is simply stunning, as is the stark landscape which surrounds the village in the shadow of Snowdon itself. If you have kids aged 7+, teenagers or still haven’t grown up yourself, I would recommend Bounce Below and their slate cavern trampoline nets in Blaenau Ffestiniog as well. Frankly the chance to throw yourself around and not do serious injury is damn good fun as well as dropping up to 20m in net slides.
Another bonus is that there are some great beers in the area, quite a few brewed by Purple Moose Brewery in Bangor. Apart from the two bottles of Moorhouses beer my friend brought over with him for me, the weekend was a Purple Moose exclusive beer zone. They aren’t a brewery which do dozens of beers, but their core range is spot on, all classed as session beers strength wise. Their main range consists of Snowdonia (Pale Ale, 3.6%), Madog (Session Bitter, 3.7%), Ysgawen (Elderflower Ale, 4.0%), Glaslyn Ale (Golden Ale, 4.2%) and Dark Side of the Moose (Dark Ale, 4.6%).
I tried all but the Ysgawen, and without exception I really enjoyed them all. Most were bottled, but if the Glaslyn I had a number of pints of at the Heights in Llanberis is any indicator of draught quality, then I shouldn’t worry. I can recommend the Heights for drinks and dinner, only a couple of pumps on at the time, but both were good ales (the other I’d had previously) and even with the reduced winter menu, the food was good, they had a decent range and you got plenty of it. Warm customer service was spot on as well, which is always important.
We also eat at Pete’s Eats down the road, more of a cafe with a license to sell bottles, the food is good value, tasty, honest and filling, what more do you want. If you are at Portmeirion, I have to recommend the Italian cafe at the top of the village, the Pizzas were some of the best I have had in a long time, just enough base to support really good toppings, cooked to crisp perfection. The pasta dishes were very good as well. They also serve the Glaslyn ale in bottles for your lunch time tipple.
But back to the beers. My favourite of their beers is Dark Side of the Moose, a wonderful dark beer, nice rich flavour with a bit of fruitiness to lift it. A multi award winner over the last 4 years, others agree with me. Glaslyn was the beer I drank most of, as every place which served bottles seemed to pick this. A nice balanced golden bitter with nice touch of hoppiness. It is one of those beers you could drink all day without getting bored. Snowdonia Ale is a classic hoppy pale ale, very refreshing and clean tasting with good flavour. Madog is a nice dry reddish ale, plenty of taste and like all the beers above will keep you coming back. The good thing is that these beers can be mixed over an evening and the different styles compliment the others rather nicely.
Now, none of these beers are going to set the world alight or make it’s way into a feature on the most extreme beers in the world. But they will do a far more important job, they give the drinker a really good beer across the range at a reasonable price, and ultimately that is the purpose of most breweries.