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Our Heritage

Proud to be Welsh. Proud to be family owned. A lot has changed since 1882 but our values remain the same


The Beginning

Our story begins on St Mary’s street in a small stone brewery. The year was 1882 and our founders Samuel Arthur Brain and his uncle Joseph Benjamin Brain, combined their brewing experience and financial resources to brew the first pint of Brains beer.   

Samuel Arthur Brain was already well established in the beer business in Cardiff.  He trained as a brewer and thanks to his natural ability, rose to become the manager of Phoenix brewery in Working Street.  His uncle, Joseph Benjamin Brain, a shrewd businessman, provided the financial backing Samuel Arthur needed to begin brewing alone.

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Rapid Expansion

Brains quickly made a name for itself across Cardiff. Consequently in 1887 land that became available next to the brewery was purchased and allowed Samuel Arthur and his uncle to rapidly expand the scale of the business. The expansion of our old brewery cost a staggering £50,000 and the central cellar alone could hold 5,000 casks of ale; a massive expense for a business of the time.

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1914 - 1918

"The Lamps are going out all over Europe"

Yet again we found ourselves needing to expand to cope with the demand for our beers. In 1914, just as work was finished on the New Brewery in the Roath area of Cardiff, Europe descended into war and the government urged for prohibition to help the war effort. It was a difficult five years for us with the constant threat of prohibition and the loss of many employees, including Samuel Arthur’s grandson, William Sweet-Escott, who was killed in action in 1918.

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"I'll have a pint of Dark"

"I’ll have a pint of Dark" has become a phrase oft heard in the pubs across Cardiff.  The popular dark brew, that we originally named ‘Red Dragon’, was nicknamed ‘dark’ by Cardiffians and caught on so much that we renamed this legendary brew in their honour. Dark dominated production at the brewery until well into the 1980s and is still a much loved beer and favourite with us today.

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1939 - 1945

The Home Front

Beer was viewed as key for morale on the home front opposed to the enemy it had been seen as in the First World War. As the war dragged on our stocks of vehicles, fuel, metal and men were taken for the National cause; our beers became weaker in strength as malts and hops ran low. As with all British families the Brains family were not without their share of hardship and 1941 – 1952 was the only time in our history that a non-family member, G.H. Walters, was chairman of our company.

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From Brewer to Landlord

1956 is a key year in our long history as it was the first time we ventured away from brewing into the world of running pubs. We bought 5 pubs in Cardiff for the grand sum of £100,000 and thus began our pub chain.

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It's not Wales without SA

Our beloved SA was first brewed in 1958. There has been confusion surrounding the name ever since; does it stand for Special Ale? Or Samuel Arthur? Or is it Skull Attack? And to be truthful it’s so lost in myth and legend that we aren’t quite sure.

But, however you know it, you’ll know that SA is renowned right through Wales and beyond as a popular ale that has become a flagship for Brains and remains at the heart of our company. SA has become a part of Welsh culture just like the daffodil, sheep and Sir Tom. Quite simply it’s not Wales without SA.

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Centenary Celebrations

100 years after our founders Samuel Arthur and Joseph Benjamin bought the Old Brewery a huge £2.8 million expansion was completed.

Demand had been increasing and we needed the space to keep up – we even had to kick our brewers out of their offices to make room for more fermenting machinery. Development was slow because we continued to brew right throughout the redevelopment. It meant we were able to brew an extra 18 million pints a year and every available inch of the site on Caroline Street was put to use. We had cemented our place at the heart of the capital.

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Brains takes the Crown

On a cold March night in 1997 discussions between Crown Buckley’s and our Chairman Christopher Brain were completed and Crown Buckley’s joined the Brains family.The purchase of Crown Buckley’s was a massive success. Not only did it mean owning an extra 28 pubs, we were now the custodians of Crown Buckley’s recipes, most notably the beloved The Rev. James.

The purchase of Crown Buckley’s marked Brains not only as the leading Welsh brewery, but a brewery in a position to compete with the best British breweries and put Welsh brewing on the map.

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End of an era

By the late 90’s the space at the Old Brewery was just not enough for us anymore. Even with Crown Buckley’s brewery in Llanelli we could not keep up demand, so when we heard that the Cardiff Brewery on Crawshay Street was up for sale the difficult decision was made to move. The new site provided us with the much more space and has been our home just south of the train station ever since. But we weren’t prepared to let the Old Brewery go that easily, and it has since been converted into Cardiff’s Brewery Quarter with many bars and restaurants, including our own pub, the Yard.

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More Positive Thinking

Under the guidance of our newly appointed Chief Executive Scott Waddington, we decided to take our tongue-in-cheek personality to the next level and develop a national identity. Billboards sprung up across South Wales predicting Wales beating England 50 point to 0 in the rugby and we ventured into TV with the iconic upside down half full pint with the strap line “More positive thinking from Brains.” 

Another famous advert was our removal of the letters S and A from Welsh signposts welcoming tourists to Wales with the strap line ‘It wouldn’t be Wales without SA.’ Yet none were as successful as 'It never rains where it pours'   It was this sentiment that took us closer to the heart of Welsh culture and has linked us closely with Wales ever since.

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From Sign to Shirt

We’ve always been open in our support for the Welsh Rugby Team and our pride in being Welsh. The next logical, yet ambitious step for us was to sponsor our boys and emblazon our name across their shirt. For 6 years the Welsh team played with Brains across their chest, and famously when playing France where alcohol was not allowed to sponsor sports teams played with ‘Brawn’ or ‘Try Essai’. The sponsoring of the rugby has proved to be one of our boldest and best decisions, and we like to think we led the team to their Grand Slams in 2005, 2008 and 2012. Just a little more positive thinking.....

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SA goes Gold

We struck gold way back in 1958 when we first brewed our beloved S.A. so it was only fitting that we gave this legendary ale the golden touch it deserved. In 2006 we first brewed S.A. Gold, a hoppy, refreshing sister ale for S.A. that was an instant hit. A much lighter ale than our others, in recent years Gold has earned an exclusive place in the permanent Brains ale family alongside the likes of the popular Dark and S.A. Not bad for a brew that’s only been around a decade.

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From 40 to 45

Our sponsorship of the WRU was a great step for Brains. So when the opportunity to sponsor the Welsh Football team came along, we instantly knew this was a good move for us. We signed a 2 year deal with the Football Association of Wales where our new continental style beer ‘45’ became the official beer of Welsh football. 45 seemed a fitting name both because the beer was 4.5% and a half of football was 45 minutes – a swift half of 45 if you will.

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Brains joins the revolution

In 2012 we opened Brains Craft Brewery which allowed us to brew in smaller batches and be more experimental with our flavours. To date we have produced over 100 craft beers, and the Craft Brewery has become an integral part of our Brains beer range.

With each brew we’ve got bolder (and better) and have collaborated with some of the best in the industry, while our own master brewers are constantly researching potential flavour combinations for future brews. We’re very proud of what we’ve created with the Craft Brewery; long live the revolution.

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Prayers Answered with Real Welsh Legends

With a strong following we daren’t change the recipe, but we thought it was about time we brought our beloved The Rev. James into the 21st Century.  It was given a complete rebrand and Original was joined by The Rev. James Gold and The Rev. James Rye to complete a fine trilogy of ales. Certainly that is all our Prayers Answered.

We also began 2015 in search of Real Welsh Legends. We love how strongly associated we are with the Rugby but we wanted to turn our focus from the players on the pitch to the supporters in the stand. We’ve chosen to celebrate the idiosyncrasies of the every man (and woman) in Wales and bring the people of Wales together over a pint in one of our pubs.

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As you can see in our proud history a lot has changed since 1882. But we’ve remained true to our roots and are still run by the descendants of Samuel Arthur and Joseph Benjamin Brain.

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