Brains Brewery

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SA Brain & Company Ltd
Industry Alcoholic beverage
Founded 1882
Founders Samuel Arthur Brain
Headquarters Cardiff, Wales
Area served South and Mid Wales
Products Beer
Owners Chris Brain

Brains (S. A. Brain & Company Ltd) is a regional brewery founded in 1882 in Cardiff, Wales, by Samuel Arthur Brain.[1] The company owns over 250 pubs across South Wales (particularly in Cardiff), Mid Wales and the West Country. The company took over the Crown Buckley brewery in Llanelli in 1997, and the Hancock's Brewery in 1999, moving to its current location, behind Cardiff Central railway station in 2000. The Old Brewery, in Cardiff city centre, has been developed into a modern bar and restaurant complex.

The company produces a range of beers under the Brain's, Buckley's and Hancock's brand names.

Brains use shirt sponsorship for the Welsh rugby union team and the Crusaders as part of their marketing strategy.[2]


The company was founded in 1882 by Samuel Arthur Brain and his uncle Joseph Benjamin Brain, when, due to the owners' debts, they acquired the Old Brewery in Cardiff from Thomas Brothers. A portion of the structure had existed since 1713, and brewing had been carried on there since at least 1822.[3][4]

The Old Brewery was expanded in 1914 when a new brewery was built in St Mary Street. The company took over the Crown Buckley brewery in Llanelli in 1997, closing down the plant, and transferring production to Cardiff.

The former Hancock's Brewery was purchased by Brains in 1999 and production moved to the larger site just on the southern side of Cardiff Central railway station during 2000. The Old Brewery has been developed into a bar and restaurant complex.

The current owner is Chris Brain.

Beer brands[edit]

Brains brand[edit]

Brains SA, the company's flagship brand, is a light-coloured malty best bitter which was colloquially known as "Skull Attack". Its formulation has undergone several revisions since the beer was launched in the early 20th century; the most recent revision was launched in early 2006 and increases the quantity of hops in the brew.

Some of the range of Brains beers

Brains Dark is a dark mild ale with an emphasis on roasted malts. There is a smooth variant, which has a smoother texture than its standard equivalent.

Brains Bitter is the brewery's standard bitter and the most commonly available in Cardiff. Many Brains' pubs serve only bitter from a cask. When served pasteurised and nitrogenated it is termed Brains Smooth.

Brains IPA, an unusually malty example of the India Pale Ale style, is usually seen on cask only in the valleys outside Cardiff, although some pubs stock it as keg beer or in bottles in Cardiff proper.

SA Gold, the newest addition to the line, is - according to a release note sent out to Brains pubs in early 2006 - Brains' attempts to branch out into both the English and youth markets, areas in which Brains is visibly struggling. Its official launch was June 2006, but many houses retired it in favour of the bi-monthly guest ale rotation. The beer is hopped with Cascade, Target and Styrian Golding hops.

45 was a keg beer at 4.5% ABV. It was launched in 2006 in Cardiff as a competitor to strong lagers such as Stella Artois. In March 2007, the recipe was radically altered from the original used in the January launch after slow market growth and poor in-house response. It was discontinued in 2011.[5]

The Rev. James is a 4.5% ABV dark best bitter carried over from the Buckley's range after the two breweries merged.

Brains Black is a 4.1% ABV stout launched on St David’s Day 2010.[6]

Buckley's brand[edit]

Brains purchased the Llanelli-based Crown Buckley in 1998. It continues to produce three Buckley's beers, all at their Cardiff brewery: Buckley's Bitter, Buckley's IPA and Reverend James best bitter.

Hancock's brand[edit]

Hancocks HB is a 3.6% session bitter originally brewed by Hancock's brewery. Formerly Wales' biggest brewer, the brewery was founded by William Hancock (father of Frank, Froude and William Hancock), acquired by Bass in 1968, and sold to Brains in 1999, but initially Bass retained the rights to the brands.[7] Production later came back to Cardiff.[8]

Seasonal beers[edit]

St David's Ale is brewed to celebrate St David's Day and is available in February and March. Taff End is available in June and July and celebrates sponsorship of the Glamorgan County Cricket Club. Brains' Bread of Heaven, named after a traditional Welsh rugby anthem, was launched in 2005 in commemoration of the sponsorship, and is mostly sold during the Six Nations Championship and autumn internationals.

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land Of My Fathers) was launched in 2006 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Welsh national anthem. It is a golden ale brewed with Welsh honey.


Brains was the shirt sponsor for the Welsh rugby union team between 2004 and 2010. As French law forbids alcohol sponsorship logos from appearing on rugby jerseys, when the team played in France the branding was changed. In 2005, "Brains" was replaced with "Brawn",[9] in 2007 it was changed to "Brawn Again", and in 2009 it was replaced with "Try Essai", a pun on the invitation to "try SA".[10]

The Old Brewery Quarter[edit]

Main article: Old Brewery Quarter
The brewery chimney

In 2003, Brains vacant Old Brewery was redeveloped into the 85,000 sq ft (7,900 m2) "Old Brewery Quarter" .It is a mixed development of 55,000 sq ft (5,100 m2) of leisure space around an open-air piazza in the heart of Cardiff’s growing city centre, together with 42 long-leasehold loft style apartments and penthouses.

The development has attracted a range of bar and restaurant operators including Starbucks, Nandos, Thai Edge, Pancake House, La Tasca, Lava Lounge, Chiquito's and SA Brain's own flagship venue, the Yard Bar and Kitchen.


  1. ^ The Beginning - SA Brain
  2. ^ Brains | Welsh Rugby
  3. ^ SA Brain & Co Ltd
  4. ^ Glover, Brian (2007). Brains: 125 Years, Breedon Books.
  5. ^ Simon Gaskell, Brains to discontinue premium lager "45", WalesOnline, 18 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-01.
  6. ^ Brains Black Welsh Stout – Guinness beware in the Welsh valleys, Andrew Wilcox Blog.
  7. ^ "Putting the ales into Wales - Regional Focus". Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  8. ^ William Hancock's & Co Ltd
  9. ^ "UK | Wales | Rugby stars swap Brains for brawn". BBC News. 2005-02-21. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  10. ^ "Business - Business News - Brains rugby sponsor deal ends". WalesOnline. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 

External links[edit]