BRITAIN has seen a huge growth in the number of breweries producing craft beer over the last five years.

A recent report revealed there were 2,274 breweries at the end of 2018, up from 1,352 in 2013, with 2017 highlighted as a record-breaking year for the industry, with 395 more breweries opening for business over the course of the year, taking the number to over the 2,000 mark for the first time since the 1930s.

It's not all been plain sailing for the sector though: last year saw growth stall significantly, with many experts saying the beer bubble had burst due to a glut of new brands, low quality brewers and high start-up costs meaning the potential to lose your investment is high.

One new company looking to buck the trend is Mold's Polly's Brew Co, a small independent brewery, whose focus is brewing super modern, fresh hoppy beers on Holland Farm just outside the Flintshire market town.

Launching in January 2018, the three-man operation has experienced huge success in just over a year, with rave reviews for their beer from drinkers and a growing market which is seeing them export to seven countries across Europe.

But it hasn't been an easy ride for the three friends, who came together at Mold's Y Delyn Wine and Tapas Bar. A recent cease and desist letter from a multi-national conglomerate in Sweden has forced them to change their name from the well-established Loka Polly brand they started with, leading to their relaunch as Polly Brew's Company and a big job for head of sales, Arron Fellows, 29, owner and brewer Sean Wheldon, 27, and assistant brewer Scott Nixon, 29.

"Loka Polly all stemmed from the ashes of Sean's previous brewery, The Black Brook Beer Company, " explains Arron. "Despite being successful, Sean almost instantly fell out of love with producing cask beers, and decided to dissolve the brewery to start up again with a complete rebrand as Loka Polly."

"We switched from cask to cans and keg because the range of beers we produce are hop heavy and very fragile in how they degrade over the time. Keg and can were the best way for them to maintain quality over time because they are airtight, impervious to light and it all keeps the beer fresh."

The space where Sean brewed was in a converted stable where the family horse Polly used to reside, and when she moved on to greener pastures, Sean's brother James took over the building with his graphic design project called Loka Island. A name was instantly born.

"Sean started it all on his own and quickly realised the sales side of things was a full-time job," continues Arron. "I'd got to know him through buying his beer when I worked at Y Delyn Wine and Tapas Bar in Mold. I'd handed my notice in and didn't know where I was going and was just about to give up on working in the beer trade when Sean reached out and offered me a job. We stayed as a two-man set up, with Sean brewing and me on the sales side of things for a few months until in August last year, we expanded the brewery to make two beers per week and we realised we needed a hand. Scott has been a friend for 10 years and despite him having no brewery experience, we knew he would soak up everything like a sponge. It's been a three-man set up ever since."

The trio are determined to bring a bit of punk rock attitude into the North Wales beer scene and from the off they decided to do things differently.

"Beer has had a very stuffy image for a very long time and maybe that's due to the CAMRA side of things," says Arron. "They've done amazing things for beer in the UK but under their laws we don't even make real ale. Craft beer in general has come in leaps and bounds in the last decade and I'd say Brewdog were the real pioneers - you've now seen that first wave of breweries and then a second wave and now a lot of people are saying we are part of the third wave producing super fresh modern styles of beers.

"We've also approached things a bit differently in terms of our sales. We knew the North Wales beer scene was very traditional and cask-led, so we knew we would put ourselves out of business if we just went for a local market. Instead we focused on hitting the big cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham.We looked at wholesalers rather than individual bars and restaurants and Sean's view was that when one bit, the rest would fall like dominoes and sure enough we sold our first pallet in Lincoln and from there it spread everywhere. It has turned into something really crazy."

Loka Polly's brand quickly took off with beer fans praising their exotically named beers like Chinook Mosaic, Exuanot Waima and Simcoe Stout and enjoying the eye-catching designs on the cans.

"To say that our first year as a brewery was an unprecedented success would be an understatement," says Arron."We've gone from two guys brewing out of a ramshackle stable once every 10 days, packaging here and there, to a sophisticated three person set up, brewing three times a week, packaging three beers weekly out of a brewhouse four times the size of Polly's stable. If you had told any of us that we would be where we are after just over 12 months as an active brewery, we would never have believed you."

"The key to it all is that we have a very talented brewer. Sean is very modest so he won't admit to it but he is extremely good at what he does. The beers he produces are basically the beers we enjoy drinking ourselves - pale and hoppy and big on the juice and low on the bitterness. The cans have a great 'Instagram' factor to them too - people like holding them and taking a picture."

All was going well until disaster struck earlier this year, when whilst launching their new Augment range nationwide, they were brought screeching back down to earth when they received a cease and desist letter from a multi-national conglomerate in Sweden; who deemed the Loka Polly brand too similar to a range of beverages produced under their umbrella, Loka.

"It was naivety on our part by not checking the European trade register prior to our first export sale," admits Arron. "But I don't think any of us expected to be sending our beers overseas within nine months of launching commercially. We figured because they were selling soft drinks and we were selling alcohol, we were two entirely different beats and nothing would come of it - it was a bit frightening because we'd built the brand around Loka Polly and we'd invested a lot.

"We thought it would cost a lot to go to court and challenge it, but to be fair to this Swedish company, they were very amicable with us and after we explained our side and the size of our brewery they said we could continue exporting up to March 31 and stay UK exclusive for April. It wasn't in the game plan but I made sure we exported right up until March 29 just to be a bit cheeky!"

The company rebranded on May 1 with the trio wanting a name that was modern but stayed true to their roots in North Wales.

"I think it borders between the traditional and the modern and we dig the American vibe it gives off," says Arron. "People were sending us suggestions, some of which were ridiculous, and we weren't prepared to lose both Loka and Polly from the name. Production continued and at the time we were climbing over kegs to get to different beers but now everything apart from a couple of cases have sold and we've seen no real slow down on our sales, which is brilliant."

Future plans include an online store and in the meantime anyone wanting to try some of Polly's Brew Company can head to the brewery's "unofficial tap room" at Mold Alehouse.

"Mold has a great little brewing community," adds Arron. "It's coming on leaps and bounds and key to that is the wine and tapas bar as they based their menu around Belgian beers and more recently they've introduced craft beer. As a result the beer scene is developing in Mold and it's much better now than it was five years ago.

"At the end of the day we are doing what we love and it doesn't feel like work because we all get on like a house on fire. We're already expanding and the sky is the limit really and although the craft beer bubble might burst, the strongest will survive and we're very blessed to have some strong breweries in North Wales."

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