My introduction to Dogs Window brewery came via my wife’s Facebook feed whilst I was on a long hiatus from all things social media. The news that there was a new brewery in Bridgend obviously piqued my interest, and I followed their progress keenly through their website.
Shortly afterwards I made sure to visit Dogs Window in Bridgend Town Centre, just after the Brewery’s launch. In a shared stall with Wales Ales, Lee, the brewer, was offering samples of his beer, which was also available to buy. I tried each of the ones he had available and found myself to be really impressed. Impressed enough, in fact, to buy a few bottles to take home and drink later.
Shortly afterwards my local shop, a few minutes walk from my house, started stocking his beer, so it’s fair to say I’ve sampled quite a few by now. I always look out for new releases and with not one, but two, scheduled for early January, it seemed a perfect time to call along to visit Lee, along with fellow kollektiv member and brewery dreamer Woody.
On pulling up outside the address I was given, we see the source of the brewery’s name and logo – Lee’s dog Bo, who he later describes as a local attraction – lying across the lounge window. We’ve definitely arrived at the right destination, I think.
Lee greets us and leads us to his garage, which is now a licensed premises as well as the location of the brewing, to chat to us about the brewery and his beer. In the garage there’s a bar with one each of Lee’s bottles arrayed on top, and a shelf unit holding a stock of his goodies. Hid away are his ingredients and fermenting brews.
After my most recent brewery visit, to the Tiny Rebel brewery in Newport, which feels like the Welsh craft beer equivalent of the Death Star, we flip from one extreme to the other with a visit to Lee at Dog’s Window. It’s about as “nano” as I can imagine a brewery to be whilst achieving sufficient levels of production to be able produce enough beer to sell, Lee’s garage is nicely set up as a brewing and storage location and tasting area, leaving me with a touch of man cave envy.
It’s clear that Dogs Window has been set up as a passion project for Lee, who operates the brewery alongside his “day job” as a commercial photographer. Having discovered a taste for craft beer he began experimenting with home brew, wondering if he could create beer that could compare with commercially produced brews. After sampling his efforts with some likeminded friends they were sufficiently impressed that he elected to investigate the next step, to produce and sell his beer.
Thus he embarked on the next stage of his journey. His evolution from novice home brewer to commercial nano-brewery was rapid, with Lee estimating it took around just 6 months. Armed with a willingness to experiment and a confidence in his knowledge of the science behind brewing, the creation of the beer itself seems to have been the easiest part of the transition.
In this day and age I suppose it’s inevitable that the main issue with setting up a brewery, even on such a small scale as this one, is paperwork rather than the quality of the beer. Lee outlines the various steps he had to follow to allow him to legally produce his beer for sale, and be able to sell it himself. The process to secure the various licenses and permits required sounds both difficult and expensive enough to test anyone’s resolve, and is certainly an eye opener for two naive dreamers like Woody and I.
The level of accountability necessary when supplying for human consumption, while obviously necessary, is a little scary, especially for a project which is effectively a side-line.
Lee kindly offers us some samples from his range as we chat, plus a taste of an upcoming beer – an unusual style – that is sure to provoke a response. I can’t say any more than that, but for the record I loved it. There’s also a collab in the works which is pretty hush hush too, but sadly too early in fermentation, and a little too secretive, for tasting or discussing at great length.
As always, the beer is really great. Not as in “great for a beer brewed in someone’s garage” but genuinely very good indeed. The quality of the beer Lee is producing could put the offerings of some vary large scale operations to shame. Indeed I’d go as far as to say that his “Fetch”, a honeyed red ale is the best red I’ve tasted so far.
The word is clearly getting out. Lee mentions he’s been included in the Good Beer guide, and is taking orders for new releases from across the UK via his webshop. He’s supplied kegs to a couple of local bars, and his beers have enjoyed a very positive reception on the beer review app Untappd.
Dogs Window has also featured recently on the influential YouTube channel of welsh beer reviewer, Simon Martin – “Real Ale Craft Beer” who has over 25,000 subscribers – with “Squeaky Toy” being reviewed very favourably.
Some of the biggest craft beer companies out there now, including the aforementioned Tiny Rebel and Scottish giants Brewdog, started off as a couple of people and a dog in a garage, so it’s not a huge leap to imagine that being a possible ambition.
Lee advises, though, that the idea of becoming big enough to step away from actual brewing is not necessarily an attraction to him. His love seems to be in the act of experimentation and creation, and the enjoyment of the drinker. His focus is on producing beers, often in lesser encountered European styles, that he would be happy to drink himself, logically assuming that this would make them attractive to other craft drinkers.
The best thing about Lee having a license in his garage/brewery is not just tasting as we talk. Visitors can also buy his beers directly from him when they call in. With this being the case, I grab an eclectic mix of tasties, including new releases “Play Dead” and “The Mutts Nuts” to take away for “blog research” ahead of publishing…(Stay tuned for the tasting notes below)
As an aspiring brewer, the visit to Lee has been informative and inspirational. Knowing he’s producing beer of this quality in what is, essentially, souped up home brew gear has given me the urge to go home and break out my kit again and start brewing, and that is most definitely not a bad thing.
If you’re in or around Bridgend at any point and like craft beer I heartily recommend that you take a look at Dogs Windows’ website or social media feeds to see what’s happening with the brewery.
The website lists local retailers and bars who stock Lee’s beer, but this is not a brewery engaged in anonymous mass production. If you fancy sampling some of their beer then why not take the opportunity to get in touch with Lee directly and pay him a visit. He’s a real enthusiast and happy to chat, and there’s something I always feel is quite engrossing about chatting to a brewer about their art whilst enjoying a sample of their beer.
Santa Paws “Black Forest Stout”
Dogs Window’s dark beers have been universally delicious in my opinion, having tried both “Doggy Chocs”, their stout, and their Robust Porter “Wait!” previously. This yuletide special is no different. As you’d guess from the name this one is modelled after the flavours of a Black Forest gateaux. It smells lovely, with some fruity sweetness. On the palate it’s moreish chocolate malt, hints of coffee with a nice cherry finish. A lovely festive tipple.
The Mutts Nuts “Quad Hopped Citra DIPA” 7.5% abv
Now I do like a DIPA. Lee advises that this one, one of this months two new beers, was actually hopped five times during brewing, but he stuck with Quad in the title. With modern (and post-modern…) IPA’s getting more and more bitter as they are hopped through the roof, DIPA’s utilise the sweetness that emanates from the extra alcohol to counteract that bitterness, making them much more balanced and drinkable for my palate.
This one is lovely, there’s plenty of citrus hoppy bitterness there, as you’d expect, but there’s a nice malty quality as well, with a syrupy sweetness. The D in DIPA stands for “double” as an indicator of Imperial strength, though, so if you drink DIPA’s too quickly, or in too much volume, you might fall over. One to enjoy responsibly. You have been warned. 😉
Squeaky Toy “Mosaic Pale Ale” 4.3% abv
One of several pale ale varieties that Lee produces. Sweet and hoppy on the nose. Pretty highly carbonated. Crisp and refreshing, there’s a nice tangy, hoppy, citrusy bitterness to this beer. A lovely easy drinking session pale.
Play Dead “Belgian Golden Strong”
Another new beer this January. Golden/amber in appearance, some wheat/grass on the nose but a definite sweet boozy aroma . There’s a wheat flavour, with a distinct alcoholic sweetness with banana notes, and a dryish finish. Even though it’s a whopping 9% 😲 it’s still pretty smooth and easy drinking.
Sit “European Pale Ale” 5.6% abv
Amber in colour with a lovely mouthfeel, there some hoppiness here but less prominent than in many modern iterations of the pale ale. There’s a lovely malty nuttiness about this beer, and a treacly sweetness. A very nice traditionally influenced, tasty beer that is likely to suit a wide range of palates.
Hi Five “Witbier” 4% abv
I’ve not always been a fan of wheaty beers, but as my palate has developed I’ve started enjoying them more and more. This one is pale, very wheaty and grassy on the nose. In the mouth it’s nicely carbonated, distinct wheat quality with some citrus hints. Genuinely one of the nicest beers of this type I’ve tasted.
Images 1-6 courtesy of Dogs Window