Guy Warner: Best in brewery
PUBLISHED: 10:54 03 August 2017
© Thousand Word Media
Real ale is more popular than ever as local breweries create beers to satisfy a new breed of beer-drinkers
Regular readers may remember that I wrote about the surge in beer popularity in this column over two years ago. I thought then that the beer revolution had reached its peak but how wrong I was! The demand for beer has continued to explode to the extent that it’s gone beyond bonkers.
With a new brewery opening every two days in the UK, we now have more breweries per head than any other country. Those breweries create over 10,000 different beers, each bringing their own unique take on what makes a good pint. But what does make a good pint? For me, it’s a chilled pale ale, while for you it may be a classic IPA, served on the warm side.
The point is, with so many of us now drinking beer – and apparently that includes 40% of women and a significant number of 18-25-year-olds – anything goes.
Beer has shaken off its crusty image and has opened itself up to a new, sophisticated market. Matching beer with food is the new wine pairing, and it’s now not unusual to be offered a beer list as well as a wine list with your meal in certain establishments. In fact, Cheltenham’s Brewhouse and Kitchen goes one step further, offering beer suggestions on its food menu, including six beers that are brewed on site in its own microbrewery.
While beer is a great year-round drink, I always think of summer as beer festival season – we’ve got the Great British Beer Festival in London on August 8-12 and the Cotswold Beer Festival, run by the Gloucester and Cheltenham branches of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, took place from July 28-30. The Cotswold Beer Festival showcases over 80 local ales and celebrated its 40th anniversary last year – which just proves how seriously we take our beer here in the Cotswolds.
We’ve certainly got an astounding number of breweries to chose from in the Cotswolds, each performing little tricks of alchemy to create their special brews.
Hook Norton Brewery uses British hops, some grown locally, as well as water from the wells beneath the brewery, to give their beers a distinctive taste. Gloucester Brewery, by contrast, brands itself a New World Craft Beer using hops from New Zealand, Australia and USA to deliver a punchiness to its ales. Donnington Brewery follows an age-old recipe that dates back to the brewery’s origins of 1865, while the infinitely more modern Burkes Beers, created only this year, is brewed by Samantha Burke, one of the growing number of highly talented female brewers making beers that appeal to today’s new beer-drinking audience.
I’m genuinely excited about the continued surge in beer-drinking, even more so because the Cotswolds is truly at the heart of the story. Give me another two years and I’ll bring you the next chapter – ‘Ale’s well that ends well’ perhaps?!
Brewed in the Cotswolds
Butcombe Brewing Co: Butcombe Original, a secret blend of English hops and Maris Otter barley, is what put this award-winning brewery on the map in the 1970s. Since then a number of ales have followed suit including the hugely popular Rare Breed, a collaboration with Cotswold farmer, Adam Henson.
North Cotswold Brewery: situated on a farm in the heart of the Cotswolds countryside, this brewery is committed to sustainable working practices in the environment such as recycling spent grain for animal feed and spent hops as fertiliser. That’s on top of creating an award-winning range of beers, of course!
Burkes Beers: Samantha Burke founded this nano brewery just this year and produces, bottles and labels everything by hand. She uses British malt, hops and yeast to create her crisp, refreshing pale ale, Shin Kickers, and adds a hint of elderflower to create the thirst-quenching golden ale, Blockley Blonde.