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May 30, 2024

Destination: Cotswolds


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Cotswold Beers. 7 Pints to Try

One of the pleasures of travel is diving into a region’s local food and drink. Sometimes it’s delicacies, specialities, or simply just great produce, created using quality, local ingredients. 

Although the Cotswolds doesn’t claim to be the centre of English beer making, the area certainly packs a hoppy aroma.

Whether you’re an Ale Aficionado or a Beginner to Bitter, there’s plenty of beer in the Cotswolds to sample. Here then, is a potted history of beer making in the Cotswolds plus seven of the region’s finest options you should try during your visit.

The Lamb Inn Pub Bar
A Cotswold pub, the best place to sample a local brew. Image: Cotswold Inns

History of Cotswold Beer

With some breweries dating back to the 1800s and some pubs, much much earlier than that, the Cotswolds has a fine brewing and beer-drinking heritage.

Like most breweries throughout England, Cotswold Breweries grew sharply during the Industrial Revolution. Mechanisation, steam power, the railway network and population growth all fuelled the growth of breweries like Hook Norton through to the 1950’s.

So how is Cotswold beer made? Until the mid-1900s, breweries like Donnington grew Barley locally to make their beer. These days, Barley Malt is usually brought in from elsewhere in the UK, that’s despite over 40% of land in the Cotswolds National Landscape given over to farming cereals. But as viewers of the popular Amazon Prime Series, Clarkson’s Farm (which is filmed in the Cotswolds) will know, not all cereal crops intended for Beer production will ‘make malting’, due to quality issues.

Being close to the hop farming countries of Herefordshire and Worcestershire also enabled Cotswold beer makers to flourish.

The village of Hook Norton (the tower of St Peter's Church rising above the mist) is surrounded by working farmland. Hook Norton Brewery, like many breweries in the Cotswolds, is committed to local sourcing, buying local grain and hops where possible. Image: Colin Watts, Unsplash

In recent years, the way we British drink our beer has changed dramatically. From consuming pints in pubs to supping a bottle or can at home. In 2014, more beer was purchased in shops by consumers than in pubs and restaurants.

Despite this sea change in beer consumption, interest in specialist or craft beer has arguably never been better. Breweries in the Cotswolds have adapted with operations like Stroud Brewery selling directly to consumers through their website and retailers like Ocado.

New beer makers have even sprung up in the Cotswolds, with the likes of Burke’s Beers (founded 2017) and Cotswold Lakes Brew (founded 2020) some of the more recent entrants into the brewing scene.

By our count, there are no further than 14 operational breweries in the Cotswolds as of 2024 – that’s not counting the many microbreweries that have sprung up in the region too. The heritage of beer-making looks set for some years to come.

List of Cotswold Breweries

Alongside more traditional breweries, the Cotswolds is now home to many craft beer operations and microbreweries.

Most of the breweries on our list offer tours, experiences and perhaps most importantly tasting!  Click on the links to find out more.

Older, traditional breweries: Donnington Brewery, Hook Norton, North Cotswold Brewery, Prescott Brewery

Younger craft breweries: Burke’s Beers, Cotswold Lakes Brew, HawkstoneStroud Brewery

Cotswold Brewery Map

7 Cotswold Beers to try

Right, enough of fluff, let’s get to the good stuff – the beer. We’ve chosen 7 of our favourite Cotswold pints. From lagers to ambers, stouts to IPAs, here’s what you should try when visiting the area. 

Our top 7 Cotswold beers. Image: Lawrence Bywater

1. Hooky - Hook Norton Ales

Brewed in the small village of Hook Norton (which is technically outside the Cotswold National Landscape border) Hooky, is Hook Norton Brewery’s classic, bestselling beer.

At 3.4%, this beer slips down almost too well, hence its classification as a session beer. Gently hopped but contrasted with malty notes too, this beer is a real taste of England. 

The critics seem to agree with us. Hooky was awarded a Bronze medal for three years on the trot (2015, 2016 and 2017) at the International Beer Challenge.

1. Hooky - Hook Norton Ales​

Style: Bitter
ABV: 3.4%

2. Hawkstone Lager​

Hawkstone Lager

Style: Lager
ABV: 4.8%

2. Hawkstone Lager

Hawkstone is the brainchild of master brewer Rick Keene and journalist-turned-farmer, Jeremy Clarkson – yes, he of Clarkson’s Farm fame.

Founded in 2021, Hawkstone produces beer, cider and vodka from its site just outside the very popular village of Bourton-on-the-Water.

Our favourite beer in the Hawkstone range is their Lager. Unlike many mass-produced lagers, Hawkstone’s is a knockout. It’s flavoursome, yet still maintains the thirst-quenching finish that all great lagers have.

Hawkstone put the extra taste of their lager down to the brewing process, which takes 6 weeks. Much, much longer than the industry average of 9 days.

3. Cotswold Gold - Donnington Brewery

Donnington is a very traditional brewing operation. Alongside its beer-making site, Donnington has 19 Cotswold Pubs which it supplies its wares to. From Stow-on-the-Wold to Snowshill, visit the Cotswolds and you won’t find it too hard to find a Donnington beer to taste.

Our favourite beer in Donnington’s range is Cotswold Gold. Though not marketed as such, this citrusy beer is reminiscent of a Pale Ale. Its all-around malted finish is savoury enough to round off the beer nicely. Best served in a Cotswold pub beer garden with a packet of ready salted crisps.

3. Cotswold Gold - Donnington Brewery

Style: Ale
ABV: 4%

4. Shin Kickers - Burke's Beers

Shin Kicker's Burke's Beers

Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 4.5%

4. Shin Kickers - Burke's Beers

Shin Kickers is the unusual name of this Pale Ale from Burke’s Beers. Named after the event which is part of the Cotswold Olimpiks, Shin Kickers is made in small batches with 100% British ingredients. 

Brewer Sam Burke (who labels every bottle by hand) uses Challenger and Goldings hops in Shin Kickers, two varieties known for their spicy flavour profiles. To give the beer even more oomph, Burke chooses not to filter this beer making Shin Kickers a tasty, yet refreshing Pale.

5. Hung Drawn 'N' Portered - North Cotswold Brewery

The fifth beer on our list is this award-winning brew from the North Cotswolds. With what has to be said is a cracking name, Hung Drawn ‘N’ Portered, harks back to times of old – when beer was dark, dark brown and people were ruthlessly, ruthlessly killed.

At 5% ABV, this is a strong beer and teamed with its bitter flavour, it won’t be everyone. But thanks to its well-hopped character and notes of sweetness, it’s the perfect beer to drink come rain or shine.

Pair this beer with a Cotswold Blue cheese for a complete taste of the Cotswolds.

5. Hung Drawn 'N' Portered - North Cotswold Brewery​

Hung Drawn 'N Ported - North Cotswold Brewery

Style: Porter
ABV: 5%

6. Chequered Flag - Prescott Brewery​

Style: Golden Ale
ABV: 4.2%

6. Chequered Flag - Prescott Brewery

Prescott Brewery was established as recently as 2008 when the owners chose to combine their two passions – ale and motorsport- to create a one-of-a-kind beer brand.

Prescott Hill Climb is, as you’d imagine, a hill climb motorsport course that makes the best of the steep Cotswold escarpment.  

The Art Deco graphics chosen to adorn each bottle of ale are fantastic, but it’s what’s inside that counts, right? Chequered Flag is Prescott’s well-balanced Golden Ale, the perfect accompaniment for watching both classic and modern cars fly up the 1,127 yards that make up the Prescott track.

7. Hop Drop - Stroud Brewery

Stroud Brewery is a forward-thinking brewery business founded in 2006. Their classic ‘and then some’ beers are extremely moreish – we’ve tried them all over the years! But for this list of best Cotswold Beers, we’ve chosen their Pale Ale.

Hop Drop, like all beers from Stroud Brewery, is organic and as another plus point for this brew, it’s gluten-free too.

If you find yourself in Stroud, then the brewery’s taproom is well worth a visit. Much more than a bar or a run-of-the-mill pub, the Stroud Brewery taproom is a place to sip something delicious and mingle with the local community.


7. Hop Drop - Stroud Brewery​

Hop Drop Stroud Brewery

Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 4.5%

Like the sound of Cotswold Beer? Come taste it with us! 

Walk the Cotswolds – Pub Classics and Bike the Cotswolds – Pub Classics are two trips of ours which put Cotswold beer and Cotswold pubs at the centre of the experience.

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