CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Discovering the appeal of real ale

PUBLISHED: 12:51 09 April 2015 | UPDATED: 13:09 09 April 2015

Head brewer Phil Janke from Donnington Brewery

Head brewer Phil Janke from Donnington Brewery

© Thousand Word Media

Guy Warner finally grows up and discovers the appeal of real ale, sampling some of the best the Cotswolds has to offer

Head brewer Phil Janke from Donnington BreweryHead brewer Phil Janke from Donnington Brewery

‘What’s the matter Lagerboy? Afraid you might taste something?’ taunts the rather intimidating goblin in the adverts for Wychwood’s popular Hobgoblin bitter. Well, yes, actually, I admit, I have always been a little afraid of real ale. It may be sacrilegious to some, but I can unashamedly say that in my youth I gravitated towards lager – mass-produced, insipid in flavour, lacking in depth – for this very reason; beer, back then, was something my dad, my granddad, and the local beardy weirdy drank, and as such, was to be viewed with suspicion by a 20-year-old enjoying a night out with his mates.

In the last 20 or so years, however, something has happened. Something big. Something nobody could have predicted – lager sales have fallen and sales of local ales grown. Microbreweries have popped up all over the country and we now have more breweries in Britain than at any time since the end of the Second World War: well over 1,000. And we clearly like what they’re brewing: sales of ‘live’, cask-conditioned ales, which ferment a second time in the barrel, have surged by 25% over the past five years and there’s been a 17% rise in 18-24 year-olds drinking ale compared to 2010.

One of the reasons for this, I’m convinced, is the breweries’ attempts to reel in a new breed of drinkers. The modern, popular golden ales are familiar to Lagerboy and, dare I add, ladies – reassuringly pale in colour, best served chilled – yet they have all the characteristics and complexity of real ales. Donnington Gold, brewed by Donnington Brewery, just outside of Stow on the Wold is a fantastic example of this and I am a complete convert. The award-winning beer has a beautiful golden hue, a light citrus flavour and a rounded malt finish. It gives you the best of both worlds – a refreshing lager in looks, yet a real ale in substance. I’m personally not a huge fan of dark, traditional ales, but this is like pure nectar to me – I finally ‘get’ what all the fuss is about (just don’t expect me to start growing a beard any time soon!).

Another reason for this ale boom, without doubt, is that beers are following the broader trend in food and drink towards authenticity, tradition, localism and provenance, something we do by the bucket load in the Cotswolds. Donnington Gold is brewed locally, using natural ingredients and traditional methods, and that gives it definite plus points in today’s climate. However, as my head will testify, it may be a purer drink than the mass-produced lager of my youth, but at 4.0%, it still needs careful handling, especially by a supposedly ‘respectable’ 40-something!

Donnington Gold isn’t the only fantastic golden ale brewed locally. There’s the multi award-winning Hooky by Hook Norton Brewery, the award-winning Jouster by Goffs Brewery in Winchcombe, Adam Henson’s Rare Breed and, let me whisper it, Cotswold Lager produced just outside Bourton-on-the-Water, to name but a few. All are available bottled, and have played their part in doing the seemingly impossible – taking the craft of microbreweries to a broader market aimed at younger drinkers, females, and lager drinkers, such as myself.

Yes, Lagerboy may well have grown up in the 21st century, but at least this time round, it’s now considered cool to be drinking real ale. Well, almost – did I really just say the word ‘cool’?!

Donnington BreweryDonnington Brewery

Pick of the best

Golden Seller: Hooky is a subtly balanced, golden bitter by Hook Norton Brewery in Oxfordshire. It’s hoppy on the nose and malty on the palate, and goes with everything.

Guy’s Favourite: the Donnington Gold by family-owned Donnington Brewery, is an award-winning golden beer with a citrus flavour and a rounded, malt finish.

One to try: Brewed in Winchcombe by Goffs Brewery, the award-winning Jouster is a drinkable, tawny ale with a good balance between bitter and malt and a clean hoppy aftertaste.

Donnington Gold is available from one of Donnington Brewery’s own pubs, online at or Warner’s Budgens stores.


This article by Guy Warner is from the April 2015 issue of Cotswold Life


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Mon, 13:15

Tracy Spiers takes an impressive, if hypothetical, budget on a shopping spree in Cheltenham’s independent stores

Read more
Mon, 12:23

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search