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Photograph: David Sillitoe 


In 1840 the Cotswolds’ valley of Uley had 13 beer houses servicing the dry throats of woollen mill workers. Today, across the UK, a colossal 26 pubs are closing each week. Clearly tastes are changing and real ale enthusiasts are right to worry about the future of their beloved locals. 


The English pub is iconic and some of the very best are to be found in the Cotswolds. Blazing open fires in winter or streamside supping under a weeping willow in summer are perfect settings for a deep, rich stout or light, golden ale. 


Cheap supermarket booze for home consumption has been devastating for pubs but there is a steady interest in real ale and micro-breweries are springing up like Versailles water fountains. Part of their success is the improvement in bottle conditioned ales so they can be marketed and sold more widely, such as the Co-op’s Freeminer, a Fairtrade ale from Cinderford. 


Real Ales in the Cotswolds

A trademark of British ales is their names. Cotswolds names include Shepherd’s Delight, Best in Show and Cotswold Lion for a woolly theme (the lion is a sheep). Slaughter Porter, Dr Foster’s Puddle & Spice, Cherry & White (Gloucester rugby club) are just some of the inventive local brews. 


Others tell more of a tale. From Stroud Brewery Tom Long is named after a mythical highwayman who was hanged on Minchinhampton Common and Stick Stout makes reference the walking sticks and parasol handles produced in the area. Edwin Beard Budding was an engineer who took the idea of the blade that cut the nap from newly woven cloth and applied it to lawns – thus was the lawn mower born and Budding Pale Ale celebrates the invention. All Stroud Brewery’s beers are organic too.


The Prescott Brewery in Cheltenham pay homage to the Prescott Hill Climb race track owned by the Bugatti Owners’ Club with their Hill Climb, Track Record and Grand Prix. 


Some pubs have micro-breweries attached such as the Halfpenny Brewery at the Crown Inn in Lechlade where, on brewing days, the process can be watched through a glass wall. Their Old Lech is typical of the play on words that seems to accompany brewer humour. 5% Sledgehammer comes from the Old Forge brewery in an outbuilding of the Radnor Arms and The Vicar’s Stout from Nailsworth Brewery. My favourite, also from Nailsworth, is the Mayor’s Bitter to commemorate the lady mayor’s objection to the idea of a brewery when it was first mooted.


Uley Brewery have adopted a piggy theme with Severn Boar, Prairie Hog, Pig’s Ear and Old Spot, the latter having a pub to match. The Old Spot in Durnsley is CAMRA’s (Campaign for Real Ale) Gloucestershire pub of the year 2013. Apparently you have to go and ask Chas Wright, the brewer, about the Oil of Uley story – is there a pig involved in this one? The mind boggles.


Some of the most passionate Cotswolds brewers believe that the beer belongs in a cask in the pub, not at home in a bottle (and certainly not chilled or frothy) while others stress the community aspect of village pubs and their produce, and have foresworn selling to supermarkets. 


And if you just don’t like real ale, micro-brewers Cotswold Brewing Company are working hard on developing interesting new, unadulterated lagers and wheat beers that are slipping down bright young Oxford gullets a treat. If however your taste buds have been tempted and your tongue has escaped your mouth then see below for the plethora of watering holes from which to quench your thirst.


Pubs on the Gloucester Ale Trail

The Amberley Inn, Amberley
The Black Horse, Amberley
The Royal Oak, Andoversford
Salmon Inn, Berkeley
Stagecoach Inn, Berkeley
The Salutation Inn, Berkeley
The Mousetrap Inn, Bourton-on-Water
The Bakers Arms, Broad Campden
The Craven Arms, Brockhampton
Kemble Brewery Inn, Cheltenham
The Fiery Angel, Cheltenham
The Jolly Brewmaster, Cheltenham
The Corinium Hotel, Cirencester
The Tunnel House Inn, nr Cirencester
The Ebrington Arms, Chipping Campden
The Plough, Cold Aston
The Old Spot Inn, Dursley
The Royal Oak, Gretton
The Hollow Bottom, Guiting Power
The Beacon Inn, Haresfield
The George Inn, Frocester
The Old Lodge, Minchinhampton Common
Egypt Mill, Nailsworth
The Britannia, Nailsworth
The Village Inn, Nailsworth
Tipputs Inn, Nailsworth
Bathhurst Arms, North Cerney
The Royal Oak Inn, Painswick
The Bear of Rodborough, Rodborough
The Prince Albert, Rodborough Hill
The Tudor Arms, Slimbridge
Fostons Ash Inn, nr The Camp
The Corner Cupboard Inn, Winchcombe
The Ram Inn, Woodchester
Posted by Andrew

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