It may seem counter-intuitive – you may indeed opine we are plain wrong – when, in the process of directing you to the best sight to see in Tintern, we tell you to keep travelling on past the world-famous abbey that famously fired the imaginations of Wordsworth and Turner, on along the road from Chepstow besides the captivating woodsy banks of the Wye, entirely out of the village and then up a track away from the river which you no doubt came here to see.
Bear with us. We often do this kind of thing.
And no one is saying you shouldn’t visit the abbey, but we are in the business of scanning the main sights and streets of the busy, much-frequented thoroughfares of Wales for the little-known dead-end turning, the half-obscured signpost, the back street and the mysterious mews and the track off into the middle-of-nowhere to bring you the things to do, the locales to eat and drink and the places to stay that still warrant the tag of undiscovered, unchampioned, unknown.
So, take that track. It ushers you up to a little parking area under some trees and ahead a wooden perimeter fence which demarcates the entrance to Kingstone Brewery. Of course, it you want to keep reading, it helps if you like beer. But unlike almost every other brewery, it is not essential for your enjoyment. Because the brewery is only part of the fun.
Tucked away in the trees in utter seclusion from Tintern, this place has the feel of an American pioneer outpost, its cluster of buildings almost absolutely fashioned from wood and resonating the defiant and intriguing air of people who follow their own dreams no matter what. There is no other brewery that the brewery-obsessed half of Undiscovered Wales has come across that is anything like it. You enter into a courtyard more reminiscent of a scene from a Grimms’ Fairy Tale, foliage-hung, vine-trailed, tree-edged log cabins that respectively contain a brewery shop, brewery, tap room-cum-bar (where in normal non-Covid-19 times occasional pizza nights are also held with woodfired pizza cooked in the courtyard oven).
Owners Ed and Tori are pioneers, that is clear. When you have an incurable case of adventurer syndrome yourself, you recognise it in others.
The brewery shop and fetching foliagey courtyard are the beery part of the adventure currently, as tours are not possible with Covid-19 restrictions (grrr, how we hate using that term in our articles, but we have to tell it how it is). No matter though, as here brewers Ed or Mark will shower you with personal attention, passion and answers to all your brewing questions and you are guaranteed to come away feeling you have had a unique foray into the world of Welsh artisan beer even if you do nothing else here.
‘Unfiltered, Uncompromised and Unashamedly Real’ is Kingstone Brewery’s slogan, but from the moment you clap eyes on the premises, and certainly by the time you sight their beers, you know you are in for something special. Ed and Mark like ales (that herald from the yeast type saccharomyces cerevisiae) more than lagers (brewed with the yeast saccharomyces uvarum) or beers (that whilst they encompass the full array of ales and lagers often err more towards the latter than the former to please modern palates).
So Kingstone Brewery beers have a sparkle like lagers do (actually it’s a deeper, intenser sparkle because they are hand-brewed and bottle-conditioned, which helps no end in this regard) but their signature taste is the ancient, smoky, chocolatey thwack to the taste buds that beer might have had centuries ago long before the term ‘craft beer’ was ever bandied about. They are vivid tasting trips into beer history. Old recipes are readily used as a base for the brews: their Tudor Ale is inspired by a 1503 recipe from Richard Arnold widely accepted to be the first documented account of hops being used to flavour beer. Their IPA (Humpty’s Fuddle) is unrecognisable from all other modern IPAs, firing with cockle-warming smoky notes too, but at 5.8% is faithful to how IPAs would originally have been made to withstand long voyages to arrive in fine form at their destination. Darker and maltier than either but for us an easier drink was their limited-edition Llandogo Trow, created to honour the once-famous tradition of ship-building on the Wye and the villages of Llandogo and Tintern. It’s one of a series of ‘Trow’ beers the brewery produced, each of the series honouring a different ‘Trow’ (Wye-built ship).
The other adventures: kayaking and mountain biking – and sculptures
But as pioneers that live close to the Wye, these guys were never going to leave it at just beer.
Kayaks are available for hire (£45), with the typical trip being a 1.5 to 2.5-hour paddle from upriver along a magnificent stretch of the Wye that bypasses a riverside tavern on the way. You can hire out mountain bikes, too (£24 per day) to explore the local area (and remember that the Wye Valley AONB is not just the Wye – it is also all those forested hills you can see above Kingstone Brewery and across the other side of the river in England). For an amble closer to the brewery, try the separately-run Sculpture Garden next door.
Lastly but not leastly, Ed and Tori’s spirit of adventure is echoed in the sequestered-away glamping accommodations they have built within the undulating pastures and coppices of their own extensive grounds. We were lucky enough to stay there, but that’s another story…
NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: 29 miles northwest is one of our favourite country mansions in the Brecon Beacons, Gliffaes Country House Hotel
At a glance
How to get there: Coming from Chepstow, continue through the village of Tintern. Yes, past the abbey. Right through. Keep on the A466 out of the village until you see the sign for Tintern Old Station (the regional visitor centre) on the right. Don’t go down here but opposite, on the left-hand side of the road, take the track which immediately splits in two. As you turn off, it’s the right-most of these tracks (the newer-looking wider one) that you want. Then bear straight ahead at another fork to reach Kingstone Brewery car park.
Parking: There is one, as just mentioned. Space for about eight cars between various piles of wood.
Refreshments: The beer, of course and, once they’re up and running again, those wood-fired pizza nights.
Best time to visit: Any time they are open really – which is not that often.
Opening Hours: Noon-4pm on Monday Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the moment. If you want to kayak or mountain bike and want an early start get in touch with them a day or two before to arrange how and when.
Address/Telephone Number: Kingstone Brewery, Tintern, Chepstow, Monmouthshire NP16 7NX/ 01291-680111