Craft beer has never been so popular and, walking into your local Cotswolds’ pub, you can expect to see an ever changing array of colourful and exciting pump clips, bottles and even – depending on how local your local is – cans too.
However, unless you know your Bohemian Pilsner from an Icelandic Pale Ale, the fancy labels and amusing names can make choosing the best brew a minefield. Granted, the worst case scenario is a bad pint but then again, you’ve got a bad pint people!
Whilst many “craft” brews in supermarkets and chain pubs still originate from mainstream brewers, you can rest assured that as it gets warmer outside, you’re always in safe hands reaching for a pint of beer fresh from a local brewery. As I’m such a kind and generous person, I’ve selflessly made life easy for you and tasted the best the Cotswolds has to offer. Here are my 10 favourites (in no particular order):
A mainstay of the Lucky Onion chain (No. 131, The Tavern, The Wheatsheaf), this 4.8% lightly hopped Pilsener style lager is clean, refreshing and, for the style conscious amongst you, having a Bobby in hand is a classic weekend look thanks to the trendy branding.
As a relative newcomer to the Cotswolds’ beer scene, Deya are making a huge splash; they are currently the top UK brewery on unTappd which says it all! Their 5.2% Steady Rolling Man pale ale manages to stay delicate and smooth whilst packing an intense tropical fruit aroma from the specially chosen American hops. Get down to their tap room (opposite Cheltenham train station) between 4 and 9pm on a Friday for the freshest, tastiest beer going.
Having recently visited Hillside Brewery and helped brew their tasty beer, it was hard to just pick one from their varied core range. In the end, the smooth balance of caramel and citrus in this 4.2% bitter made this a worthy choice for an evening session, even winning over Sarah who isn’t a huge beer fan.
You will undoubtedly have come across a Hook Norton pub somewhere on your travels around the Cotswolds. If you have, you’ll probably have consumed one too many Old Hookys. You may not however have tried their Cotswold Lion. This 5% golden pale ale balances subtle earthiness with a grassy finish. Brewed especially to commemorate 50 years of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB), it even has a regal lion pump clip. Roar!
The Cotswold Brew Co. is one of the UK’s oldest microbreweries and was the first to grace the Cotswolds. As well as this 5% hoppy yet slightly sweet lager, they have also turned their talents to producing gin and vodka too. To ensure they maintain the quality, it is only available within the surrounding area. Lucky us!
Head down to Gloucester Docks, past all the designer outlets, and you’ll find “Tank”, Gloucester Brewery’s very own bar. There is a huge selection available including plenty of their own core range and seasonal specials. Demi God, a peppery 4.5% saison, was declared the Gloucestershire’s Beer of the Year for 2016 at CAMRA’s Cotswold Beer Festival. Who am I to argue?
Bringing together their passion for beer and motorsport, Prescott Ales have forged strong links with the fabulously fun Prescott Hill Climb event; just take a look at their eye-catching branding. All of their ingredients are sourced within 80 miles of the brewery and it shows; Hill Climb, a 3.8% fruity and refreshing pale ale, was a 2012 SIBA Regional and National Champion.
The Arkell family have been brewing at Donnington Mill near Stow on the Wold since 1865. Amazingly, the watermill is still used to drive parts of the brewery’s machinery. As its name suggests, this 4% addition to their core range is a rich golden colour with a citrus flavour and malt finish. Find it on cask at one of the brewery’s 17 Cotswolds’ pubs.
Brewed in a picturesque setting near Coberley, this 4.4% hoppy Indian Pale Ale packs in grapefruit and floral aromas. Perfect then for a light afternoon session. The brewery itself is named after the iconic Cotswold Lion sheep; its the one that looks like it is sporting dreadlocks if you didn’t already know!
Cotswold limestone filtered spring water plus 7 different grains make Old Sodbury Mild an award winning 3.9% English mild ale with chocolatey notes and a long finish.
So that’s my top ten – do let me know if you’ve any good suggestions for my next beer!