IT IS not just aficionados of real ale that are enjoying the output from a north Wales microbrewery, but livestock too.

The mash from Cwrw Cader Brewery, which sits at the foot of the mighty Cader Idris Mountain, feeds chickens and cattle on a local farm. And there is great demand for the spent hops from local gardeners, who use it as a nutrient-boosting compost.

Cwrw Cader Brewery at Dolgellau was created by solicitors Stephen and Jane Warner, who produce 360 pints at every weekend brewing while continuing with their legal careers during the week.

Sales have been so good that the couple are embarking on a £40,000 expansion to increase production fivefold.

Their range of beers has proved so popular that Stephen has now retired from his legal practice in Nottingham to become a full-time brewer while Jane has cut the number of days she works as a solicitor at a cancer charity.

Production will increase from five casks per brewing day to 24 and the Warners are already exploring opportunities to incorporate their beers into locally-made sausages and pies.

The expansion is an exciting leap forward for the couple, whose shared passion for real ale was at the heart of this business venture.

Stephen and Jane both had demanding careers in law, but as their children grew up and left home they decided the time had come to nurture their ambition to establish a microbrewery.

“We decided to give it a go while we still had enough courage to do so,” explained Stephen, who has for many years been a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and a regular visitor to the Nottingham Beer Festival.

They researched the market and embarked on training courses to master the chemistry of brewing. Thanks to funding from Cywain – a project established by Menter a Busnes to help primary producers in Wales add value to primary produce – they were assisted by a brewing consultant who helped them develop their recipes. Cywain also assisted with marketing advice and website design.

“It has been an upward learning curve, but some of the skills of running our own business were transferable from our previous business,” said Stephen.

“It is a matter of checking and double checking, if each brew tastes slightly different that is a problem because your consistency is important.”

They have been grateful of the support of Cywain development manager, Catrin Jones.

“She has been giving us the benefit of her opinions and has been practical and cheerful throughout,” said Jane.

The first brew was given away to five local pubs, accompanied by feedback forms. Encouraged by the response, the Warners developed the recipes to create two trademark beers – Cader Gold and Idris Bitter. They have since launched a third beer – Red Bandit – which takes its name from a 16th century band of red-haired bandits. Local bee colonies could provide another element to the range.

“We are hoping to produce a honey beer,” said Jane.

“Creating beer is very much like cooking, you can experiment a great deal with recipes.”