From electrical engineer to professional brewer- GARETH WILLIAMS talks to SOPHIE BROWNSON about his incredible journey to create Gwent’s iconic brewery TINY REBEL.
I HAVE always been into home brewing.
My grandfather Les Williams was a big home brewer and did it as a hobby.
Back then people were doing it because it was much cheaper than the pub.
My grandfather and I used to make ginger beer in plastic bottles and they used to end up exploding in the kitchen.
I always thought it was brilliant.
I was born at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport on March 4, 1981, and lived in Blackwood initially with my mum Patricia Williams and father Lyndon Williams, along with my brother Matthew, and sister Jodi.
I went to Libanus Primary School and Pontllanfraith Comprehensive.
It was decent. I enjoyed school was academic and captain of the football and rugby team.
Leaving school at 16 I was an electrical apprentice at Hi-Spec in Bedwas and became a qualified electrician at 19.
Leaving there, worked at C & C Electrical Ltd in Cardiff, I then saw a job advert in the Echo for a job as an electrician in New Zealand so I applied, got the job and stayed there for two years.
After that I decided to go back-packing around Australia for six months.
Growing up in the Valleys it was quite small and close knit and I always wanted to go out and see a bit more.
It was the best thing that I have ever done.
It changed my life did travelling.
It was a huge responsibility- I had moved out of the house I lived in with my mum and dad and went out and saw different life styles and things.
But then I just had enough. You get the experience and then think ‘do I want to live here forever?’ I wanted to go back home, so I moved to Cardiff at the age of 24.
I started working for a company called Whiteheads Building Services as an electrician and went back to college and did a High National Diploma and became an electrical engineer.
I then met my wife Hannah in the business, as her father Ian Cummings, owned the company and she was the charter accountant. We got married in 2010 at the Celtic Manor and later had our children Maggie, three, and Cleo, one.
I guess I started home brewing properly when I was 19 or 20 years old.
Going out in Blackwood with my mates I always used to drink ale rather than larger as I preferred the taste.
When I met my wife Hannah and we went round to her families for dinner I would always bring my own beer.
Through that I started to get my brother-in-law and now business partner, Bradley Cummings, into it and told him how I did my own home brewing and we started being together.
We were brewing in my father in-law Ian’s garage while both working at his company Whiteheads.
Brewing takes up to six hours while it ferments and most of it went down the drain while we were experimenting. We were trying so much stuff out- it was all trial and error so that when we did set up our business it would work. You have to get a good reputation in business so we wanted to make sure that the beers were just right.
Then it got to the point where some of the beers we were making were better than some of the ones you could buy and so we thought about setting up our own brewery.
People always ask ‘how can you go from engineering to brewing, but you’d be surprised.
I have a trade behind me and they are both quite methodical.
I even did some of the electrical work when we first started the brewery.
We looked all around Newport for somewhere to base ourselves as we decided that we wanted to be in Newport as there are no other breweries there.
So we bought the brewery in Newport in January 2012 and started brewing in the April.
I started off on my own as the business couldn’t support the two of us when I first started and Brad joined me three to four months later.
The beer was well received and we got a repeat order and so we had to make more!
We have now been open two and a half years and have eight full time staff and around 25 staff at the UrbanTaphouse.
We’re even looking to employ two more at the brewery.
We have quite a young team and I always say that you’re only as good as the people around you-no matter how good you are as an individual.
I always try to promote a fun atmosphere but they know that the work needs to get done.
Bradley’s wife Laura takes care of the financial side of the business- so it is a real family business.
We sell our beers all over Newport including The Lamb, Le Pub and to over ten counties around the world from England to Australia.
Our beer Dirty Stop Out won the Champion Beer of Wales at last year’s Welsh Beer Festival and FUBAR won this year’s with around five of our beers winning gold category awards at the festival.
These awards show us that we’re heading in the right direction and all of our hard work had paid off.
It is nice working for ourselves. We have turned our hobby into our livelihood- most people ambition and dream.
We were also given the opportunity to open our own pub in Cardiff-the Urban Tap House last October.
It has really become a destination which brings in a different crowd of all ages.
And were doing well. We’ve won awards.
My ethos as an employer is that you shouldn’t make someone do something that you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself.
I also believe in giving something back which is why Tiny Rebel has done a lot for charity such as cycling for Velindre, supporting For Luca and others.
We’ve got to give something back."