I recently attended one of those large ‘good food’ expositions. You know the sort of thing, where you can buy specialist kitchen knives and unusual cooking ingredients at ‘special’ prices. As my wife and I trudged amongst the stalls crammed with artisan chilli sauces and expensive anodised pans I spotted a veritable oasis – The Cotswold Brewing Company had set up a small bar and were serving pints of their wares.
I ‘sampled’ their wheat beer and their premium lager and was pleasantly surprised, very quaffable. I also purchased one of the brewery’s wheat beer glasses for my ‘collection’. I would have bought some beers as well but my wife had already filled several carrier bags with the aforementioned chilli sauces and pans – oh and a nine pound goose! I wasn’t looking forward to the train journey home.
Of course a couple of much needed beers in a hot exhibition centre doesn’t constitute an objective review, so I contacted the brewery and they kindly sent me samples of their brews to taste on behalf of The Brew Club.
The Cotswold Brewing Company is based, as their name suggests, in the Cotswolds, a range of gentle hills about sixty miles west of London; if you’ve seen either ‘Midsomer Murders’ or ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ on TV then you get the general idea. I ndeed the brewery’s labels and branding reflect the gentle rolling hills.
The brewery itself has its origins in a former New York brewpub, being shipped to the UK in containers for re-assembly; brewing started in September 2005 with their first brew being ‘Cotswold Premium’ a 5% ABV premium lager.
The brewery’s regular range has now expanded to include a 3.8% ABV lager, a 5.3% ABV Dark Lager and a 4.2% ABV unfiltered wheat beer.
There’s also a seasonal brew, which changes every three months and as I type this, it’s a dark 6.5% ABV ‘Winter Lager’ – sounds interesting.
Bizarrely their website describes each beer as a female. I know that ships and cars are often considered to be feminine, but I had never heard beers described as ‘she’ before – except perhaps for my review of Duchesse de Bourgogne – but that was perhaps excusable.
The brewery was kind enough to send me samples of their four bottled brews:
Cotswold Three Point Eight 3.8% ABV
It pours bright and golden with a loose white head that subsides quickly, leaving a trace of lacing. There’s a hoppy nose, with Saaz hops prominent. The brewery states that the recipe “includes a blend of Saaz, Styrian, Goldings and Cascade hops and Optic malted barley”.
It’s, medium bodied, not too heavy, not too light and very refreshing. No, make that very, very refreshing. I like this beer, and would happily seek it out again.
At 3.8% ABV this is punching way above its weight, it’s not often I’d take a 3.8% beer over a 5%, but it’s clear how much care and attention has gone into this beer.
Cotswold Premium 5% ABV
It pours with a lively white head that disperses quickly, there’s no trace of lacing. There’s no real evidence of hops in the nose – the brewery states that it’s brewed with “Liberty and Hersbrucker hops and Maris Otter malted barley” – but I did notice that underlying ‘soapy’ scent – the last time a beer I’ve tasted had that was the Heineken I reviewed about a year ago. After research, I learned that this is caused by the presence of octanoic acid – produced during the maturation process.
The beer is reasonably well bodied, about what you’d expect from a premium lager, and the flavour, while not as hoppy as European lagers, is quite quaffable. There’s a subtle bite lurking in there that’s refreshing.
Given that the Cotswold Brewery is going up against the big boys (Kronenbourg, Heineken and Stella) in the premium lager sector, this beer works well, but in all honesty, I preferred their 3.8% in bottles, but enjoyed the draught when I first encountered it.
Cotswold Dark 5.5% ABV
The brewery describes this as “a dark little number who can really pack a punch. She’s bursting with flavour and lashings of taste, yet retains a smooth finish that will warm even the most frozen of your cockles.” I think it’s nice to know what a brewer sets out to do with a beer.
It pours with a rich coffee coloured head that disperses with unseemly haste.
The beer is a rich, garnet colour and the nose is a medium roast coffee – not espresso.
The flavour is rich coffee, again maybe Americano rather than espresso, or even Mocha, there are chocolate hints – again the brewery lists “British Bramling Cross and American Cascade hops, Munich and Chocolate malts add a greater depth and complexity to the Optic Malted Barley” – and behind all the coffee and chocolate there are hints of toffee and caramel and a satisfying hop bite.
All in all this is a complex and very satisfying beer.
Cotswold Wheat 4.2% ABV
The Brewery describes this beer as being “Modelled on the famous Weisse Beer made by our German cousins this Frau can be a little fruity. She’s blonde (of course) because, as is traditional with Weisse Beer, she’s unfiltered and her fruity flavour comes from a special mix of malted wheat, barley and hops” – unusually they don’t tell us which hops they use.
It pours pale and cloudy, as you would expect from a ‘Berliner Weisse’. There’s less head than I would have expected and while it disperses quickly, there are some signs of lacing.
The nose is sharp and yeasty, coupled with that sharp/sour balance that you would expect. And rather than banana and bubblegum, there was a citrus ‘zing’. It was as though someone had already put a slice of lemon in the glass.
And that lemon came through in the flavour, looking at my notes I wrote ‘lemon soda’ and that’s what it reminded of… there were citrus flavours fighting the wheat beer sourness.
I enjoyed it, and found it very refreshing.
All in all, I enjoyed all the Cotswold Brewing Company’s brews, and I think I would probably turn to their 3.8% lager first. My son is based in Oxfordshire, not too far from the Cotswolds, I’ll be checking the brewery’s website for a list of pubs in his area that stock their brews.
It’s looking good for next summer!