24-year-old Hywel Evans writes about his passion for craft beer and his quest to find the best up and coming breweries in Britain.
After completing my chemistry degree, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I saw an ad for the Asda graduate scheme and thought I’d take a look. Seeing the number of opportunities in different areas and hearing good things about the company made me want to apply. When I was originally told I would be working in the beer team my mum couldn't believe I'd managed to get such a cool job!
Over the past couple of years the market for craft beers has grown and it was an obvious area for us to explore for our customers. When the new role of craft beer buyer was created I jumped at the chance to take it on. Craft beer is a passion of mine. I've always liked trying new beers and was traditionally a bottled ale drinker. The craft movement suited my interests because it's all about exploring new tastes.
Before I started with the beer team at Asda I travelled around the US and managed to try plenty of different beers. The US craft market is slightly different to the UK, but it was great to see what they were doing over there.
My degree is in chemistry and I love the fact that craft beer is all about experimentation and the chemistry of the ingredients to push the flavour boundaries of beer. It's as much about unearthing new tastes than anything else – there are some brilliant beers being brewed around the world, many of which are from the UK.
There are so many great quality beers that I couldn’t pick a favourite. We have some phenomenal breweries in our range that produce some stunning beers and I’m proud of all of them. Personally, my favourite style at the moment is a bold, very hop-forward IPA like Stone IPA, Harpoon IPA and Victory Vital IPA. They all get my seal of approval!
When we launched 100 new lines into more than 300 stores across the country, I was in the beer aisle at 4am helping to set everything up. When we'd finished, I took a step back to look at it. I was pretty impressed and proud of what I'd helped to create.
In terms of the future, I think you'll see more brands like BrewDog coming through as real leaders and volume drivers of the craft market. On top of this, the explosion of styles and flavours is set to continue with loads of smaller brewers continuing to emerge.
If you've not tried craft beers before I’d say start with something you're used to – if you like lager a craft lager or pilsner would be a good place to start. Cut Loose Pilsner is a dry, satisfying lager with invigorating citric fruitiness.
Then, maybe step up to a pale ale or session IPA – they're a bit fruitier and have a hint of hop and are really popular at the moment. BAD Co’s Pale Aura is light and fruity and goes well with spicy foods.
Once you find a beer you like, you can start to try new flavours and test your taste buds.
We've scoured the UK looking for the best up and coming breweries, ranging from small traditional cask brewers to hi-tech, state-of-the-art fermenting breweries that use a scientific approach to produce beer. We also looked to America, where the craft market is far more mature, to bring the best they can offer to our stores.
I'll be travelling back to the US in a few weeks to go to San Francisco and find out what's new there. I'll also be visiting Walmart in Bentonville to share what I've learned.
I've sampled every beer in the range and many more! Any decent buyer would want to taste the product they’re buying to make sure it’s right for their customers – I’m just lucky that mine is craft beer! Some of my friends in other buying teams think I’ve definitely got the best range to work with.