Brains (S. A. Brain & Company Ltd) is a regional brewery founded in 1882 in Cardiff, Wales, by Samuel Arthur Brain. The company controls more than 250 pubs in South Wales (particularly in Cardiff), Mid Wales and the West Country. The company took over Crown Buckley brewery in Llanelli in 1997, and Hancock's Brewery in 1999. Brains moved to the former Hancock's brewery just south of Cardiff Central railway station in 2000. The Old Brewery, in Cardiff city centre, has been developed into a modern bar and restaurant complex.
The company produces a range of beers under the Brain's, Buckley's and Hancock's names.
Brains use shirt sponsorship for the Welsh rugby union team and the Crusaders as part of their marketing strategy.
In 1882 the Thomas brothers sold the Old Brewery in Cardiff in order to pay debts. Samuel Arthur Brain and his uncle Joseph Benjamin Brain founded their business by buying the brewery from the Thomas brothers. Part of the building dated from 1713 and it had been a brewery since at least 1822.
Brains expanded the Old Brewery was expanded in 1914 by having a new brewery built in St Mary Street.
In 1997 Brains took over Crown Buckley in Llanelli. It closed Crown Buckley's brewery and transferred production to Cardiff. In 1999 Brains bought the former Hancock's Brewery just south of Cardiff Central railway station. In 2000 it moved production there, and in 2003 the Old Brewery was redeveloped as a bar and restaurant complex.
In September 2011 the company diversified into coffee shops, buying the Cardiff-based coffee house chain, Coffee#1.
The current owner is Chris Brain.
Brains SA, the company's flagship brand, is a light-coloured malty best bitter which was colloquially known as "Skull Attack". Its formulation has undergone several revisions since the beer was launched in the early 20th century; the most recent revision was launched in early 2006 and increases the quantity of hops in the brew.
Brains Dark is a dark mild ale with an emphasis on roasted malts. There is also a 'smooth' variant.
Brains Bitter is the brewery's standard bitter and the most commonly available in Cardiff. Many Brains' pubs serve only bitter from a cask. When served pasteurised and nitrogenated it is termed Brains Smooth.
Brains IPA, an unusually malty example of the India Pale Ale style, is usually seen on cask only in the valleys outside Cardiff, although some pubs stock it as keg beer or in bottles in Cardiff proper.
SA Gold, the newest addition to the line, is – according to a release note sent out to Brains pubs in early 2006 – Brains' attempts to branch out into both the English and youth markets, areas in which Brains is visibly struggling. Its official launch was June 2006, but many houses retired it in favour of the bi-monthly guest ale rotation. The beer is hopped with Cascade, Target and Styrian Golding hops.
45 was a keg beer at 4.5% ABV. It was launched in 2006 in Cardiff as a competitor to strong lagers such as Stella Artois. In March 2007, the recipe was radically altered from the original used in the January launch after slow market growth and poor in-house response. It was discontinued in 2011.
The Rev. James is a 4.5% ABV dark best bitter carried over from the Buckley's range after the two breweries merged.
Brains Black is a 4.1% ABV stout launched on St David’s Day 2010.
Brains bought the Llanelli-based Crown Buckley in 1998. It continues to brew three Buckley's beers, all at its Cardiff brewery: Buckley's Bitter, Buckley's IPA and Reverend James best bitter.
Hancocks HB is a 3.6% session bitter first brewed by Hancock's brewery. Formerly Wales' biggest brewer, the brewery was founded by William Hancock (father of Frank, Froude and William Hancock) and bought by Bass in 1968. Brains bought Hancock's in 1999, but initially Bass kept the rights to the brands. Production later came back to Cardiff.
Seasonal beers' include St David's Ale', which is brewed to celebrate St David's Day and is available in February and March. Taff End is available in June and July and celebrates sponsorship of the Glamorgan County Cricket Club. Brains' Bread of Heaven, named after a traditional Welsh rugby anthem, was launched in 2005 in commemoration of the sponsorship, and is mostly sold during the Six Nations Championship and autumn internationals.
Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land Of My Fathers) was launched in 2006 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Welsh national anthem. It is a golden ale brewed with Welsh honey.
Brains sponsored a number of railway bridges over roads in Cardiff to have its advertising slogans painted on them. They include "It's Brains you want!" in Clare Road and Leckwith Road and "People who know beer... have Brains" in Penarth Road.
Brains was the shirt sponsor for the Welsh rugby union team from 2004 until 2010. As French law forbids alcohol sponsorship logos from appearing on rugby jerseys, when the team played in France the branding was changed. In 2005, "Brains" was replaced with "Brawn", in 2007 it was changed to "Brawn Again", and in 2009 it was replaced with "Try Essai", a pun on the invitation to "try SA".
In 2003, Brains vacant Old Brewery was redeveloped into the 85,000 sq ft (7,900 m2) "Old Brewery Quarter" .It is a mixed development of 55,000 sq ft (5,100 m2) of leisure space around an open-air piazza in the heart of Cardiff’s growing city centre, together with 42 long-leasehold loft style apartments and penthouses.
The development has attracted a range of bar and restaurant operators including Chiquito, La Tasca, Lava Lounge, Nando's, Pancake House, Starbucks, Thai Edge and SA Brain's own flagship venue, the Yard Bar and Kitchen.