A glass of real ale awaited Wales’ rural affairs minister Elin Jones when she opened a microbrewery in a region of Pembrokeshire famed for its beer-making.

The minister joined former livestock farmers, Len and Sarah Davies, and their daughter, Rhian, a qualified chemist, at the launch of their Gwaun Valley Brewery.

The family moved to their farm in the Gwaun Valley 11 years ago and it was then that Len became interested in making beer.

The valley is synonymous with brewing, largely because of its tradition of celebrating New Year on January 13th, a custom known as Hen Galan.

“Many of the farmhouses in the area used to host a party at Hen Galan and the guests enjoyed glasses of home-brew beer,” Len explained.

Over the years he experimented with his own recipes while running a beef and sheep farm until last year when he and Sarah took the decision to open a commercial microbrewery in their former corn store.

The brewery is now producing 1,150 pints a week with plans already in place to increase output to sustain demand from local pubs and visitors.

The business has not only created jobs for Len and Sarah, who sold their livestock to fund their diversification, but also for their daughter, Rhian, and her friend, Samantha, both chemists.

After many years working in the pharmaceutical industry Rhian was delighted to have the opportunity to return to rural Pembrokeshire.

The Davies’ had the confidence to put their plan into action after joining an Agrisgôp group run by leader, Olwen Thomas.

“It gave us an opportunity to listen to other people’s opinions and it made us very focused,” said Sarah, who used her talents as a watercolour artist to produce the branding for the new brewery.

It was through Cywain, a project set up by Menter a Busnes to help primary producers in Wales add value to primary produce, that the Davies family received a business plan and support to get the business up and running.

Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones described the brewery project as ‘an excellent example of joint working within rural Wales’.

“The Davies family have made the very best of the support available to them through Agriscop and the Menter a Busnes project Cywain and have already achieved a significant amount. I sincerely congratulate the family on the success of their brewery and wish them all the best for the future,” she said.

Aled Davies, Cywain development manager for South Wales, said he was delighted that the Davies family had established the micro-brewery.

“The family will use their own malting barley and hops. It is a fantastic example of how primary producers can add value to their produce,” he said.

“Cywain was able to help the family develop their new products and access markets. This was all supported by a business plan that we produced for the business.”

Len and Sarah Davies said they were enormously grateful for the support made available to them through Agrisgôp and Cywain.

“We are also indebted to support from the Pembrokeshire Lottery and the Welsh Assembly Government’s Single Investment Fund,” said Sarah.

Gwaun Valley Brewery beer is not only available at a large number of pubs and retail outlets but the brewery is open seven days a week for visitors to sample the ales and have the opportunity to buy.