Gloucestershire is ripe with independent micro breweries that produce some of the finest ales in the country – and a selection of these top local breweries share the secrets of their ancient craft on a series of brewery tours.
With short tours and full-day experiences available for individuals and groups, ale appreciators have the chance to learn all about the history of brewing, discover the tricks of the trade, and even sample some of their finest brews.
Featuring everything from award-winning pale ales to dark and rich, full-bodied stouts, and some even offering memento pint glasses to take home, take a look at SoGlos’s comprehensive brewery tour guide.
Venue: Battledown Brewery
When: Brewery tours are available from Monday to Friday, but organisers suggest booking on a Tuesday or Wednesday, which are brewing days, at a time to suit you.
The lowdown: Cheltenham’s oldest working brewery, which dates back to the 1600s, operates a busy 13-hectolitre brew-plant, producing fine beers that can be found in local pubs, hotels, restaurants and shops across the county. It is well-known for its range of Cheltenham S.P.A ales, which include the medium-bodied Special Premium Ale, the crisp and fruity Special Pale Ale, and the light gold and fresh Standard Pale Ale.
The tour includes: Battledown welcomes groups of between 15 and 36 for a 90-minute guided tour of the brewery, where guests will discover all about its history, brewing methods and traditions, and produce, as well as sample some of its finest. What’s more, groups can tuck into some good food along the way – usually a substantial Ploughman’s – and ask the guide as many questions as they like.
Price: The tour costs £12 per head
SoGlos loves: Every tour participant takes home with them a branded Battledown pint glass, to enjoy their ales in style and remember the experience for years to come.
For more info: See Battledown Brewery or call (01242) 693409.
Venue: Prescott Brewery
When: Brewery tours can be pre-booked on evenings and weekends at times to suit you.
The lowdown: Taking its name from the village of Prescott on the outskirts of Cheltenham, Prescott Brewery aims to reflect a golden age of brewing and a magnificent heritage of motorsport combined, producing ales using the finest ingredients with intense flavour and giving them suitably, motor-related names – including the thirst-quenching, golden pale ale Hill Climb, the full-bodied best bitter Track Record, and a powerful, full-throttle traditional Grand Prix ale.
The tour includes: Prescott Brewery offers pre-booked tours for groups of between 10 and 40 people, which take in all aspects of its brewing process and links this magic to the historic Prescott Speed Hill Climb. Lasting approximately 90-minutes, the tour promises to give visitors the opportunity to sink a few samples, as well as find out more about an age-old Cheltenham tradition.
Price: The tour costs £9 per head
SoGlos loves: The brewery’s bottles really stand out on the shelves due to its range of specially-designed, eye-catching and evocative art deco labels, which showcase the superb age of motoring – with a selection of other memorabilia available to buy in the store too, including posters, beer towels and Prescott Ales glasses.
For more info: See Prescott Brewery or call 07526 934866.
Venue: The Cotswold Brewing Company
When: Brewery tours can be booked in advance between 11am and 2pm, Monday to Friday, and by appointment only on Saturdays and Sundays.
The lowdown: Established in 2005 by husband and wife Richard and Emma Keene, The Cotswold Brewing Company outgrew its original home of Foscot in 2010, and moved to a 10-acre rural site near Bourton-on-the-Water. Its lagers and beers are popular across the country, and are sold in pubs, hotels, shops and markets nationwide – including the refreshingly continental Cotswold 3.8 Lager, the Cotswold Wheat Beer, which is modelled on unfiltered Bavarian Weisse beer, and Cotswold Cider, which is said to conjure up sunny days in just one sip.
The tour includes: The 90-minute tour takes groups of at least 10 visitors around the independent, family-run brewery and its extensive grounds, and includes a brief talk on its history, as well as an overview of the brewing process and the different beers it produces.
Price: The tour costs £15 per head
SoGlos loves: At the end of the tour, guests can take a memento glass and a bottle of beer to enjoy later at home.
For more info: See The Cotswold Brewing Company or call (01451) 824488.
Venue: May Hill Brewery
When: Brewery tours can be booked in advance on any day, but it is worth calling beforehand to see if you can catch a brewing day, which vary from week to week.
The lowdown: May Hill Brewery was set up in a converted dairy farm in Longhope in 2011. It has a six barrel capacity that produces up to 2,000 litres of beer per week, which is said to have distinctive local character, and prides itself on seeing its real ale in local pubs and outlets throughout the county.
The tour includes: With a choice of three tours available for individuals or groups, visitors can enjoy a fleeting visit of the brewery, or even spend the whole day there to get the full brewing experience – with everyone having the chance to learn about the history of brewing beer and May Hills products. Choose from a 90-minute tour and tasting of the classic ales; the same tour and tasting session plus four bottles of May Hill Brewery and a branded glass to take home; or a full day hands-on experience of the whole brewing process, from mashing and boiling, to bottling beer – with a tasting session on the cards, breakfast, lunch, engraved glass and your choice of a beer box or crate of your favourite.
Price: The basic tour costs £10 per head, £20 for the tour plus bottles and glass, or £70 for the full day experience.
SoGlos loves: The brewery prides itself on using only the finest local ingredients, right down to the water, which comes from a well that’s 200 feet below the farm, bringing about the name WellBrew Ales.
For more info: See May Hill Brewery or call (01452) 830222.
Venue: Gloucester Brewery
When: Brewery tours can be booked in advance on any evening and usually run from 7pm until 10pm.
The lowdown: Gloucester Brewery is one of the youngest micro breweries in the county and is located in the heart of Gloucester Docks. It prides itself on producing high quality and exciting ranges of real ales using traditional brewing techniques and locally sourced ingredients. Its most popular ales include a silky rich Dockside Dark, a refreshingly crisp Gloucester Gold and the full-bodied Priory Pale with citrus and tropical notes.
The tour includes: Gloucester Brewery welcomes groups of at least 10 people with a pint upon arrival, to learn all about its background, ales and brewing techniques, with the chance to ask questions on the cards after the talk. They will then be guided around the modern brewery by a knowledgeable member of staff, before whiling away the rest of the evening in comfort over drinks and a chat.
Price: The tour costs £15 per head
SoGlos loves: Each group can tuck into a delectable buffet laid out for them after the tour, and some lucky groups might even catch a bit of live music to boot.
For more info: See Gloucester Brewery or call (01452) 690541.
Venue: Severn Vale Brewing
When: Brewery tours are available on weekday evenings, prior to booking in advance.
The lowdown: Severn Vale Brewing was established in 2005 by local, experienced brewer, Steve McDonald, in a disused milking parlour on the outskirts of Cam, near Dursley. Its range of ales, including the golden Dursley Steam Bitter and the wonderfully hoppy Session ale, can be found in free trade pubs and at festivals across the county.
The tour includes: Groups of at least 12 people can enjoy a two-hour guided tour around the brewery, beginning with an informative talk from Steve himself, and the chance to sample its range of local ales. Don’t miss your chance to try its rich and malty Severn Sins stout, which won the CAMRA Gloucestershire Beer of the Year award in 2011 and the SIBA Supreme National Champion award in 2008.
Price: The tour costs £7 per person
SoGlos loves: To celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Severn Vale Brewery created an extra special golden ale, Luverly Jub’lee, which is described as having bright and zingy flavours.
For more info: See Severn Vale Brewing or call (01453) 547550.
Venue: Stroud Brewery
When: Brewery tours can be booked by prior arrangement from Monday to Thursday between 9.30am and 2.30pm, and on Fridays between 9am and 5.30pm.
The lowdown: Stroud Brewery is nestled in the village of Thrupp and produces naturally conditioned beers using whole hops and local malting barley. Its shiny new brew house, which opened in 2011, produces a wide range of award-winning beers, such as the sweet malt Budding Pale Ale, the spicy and citrusy Tom Long Amber Bitter and the creamy pale Alederflower.
The tour includes: Available to groups of between 15 and 25 people, Stroud Brewery offers a one-hour guided tour, followed by half an hour of generous sampling. Beginning and ending in the brewery tap bar, the tour promises to reveal the secrets behind Stroud Brewery’s process to make traditional real ales, why it was set-up and what motivates the staff. Light snacks or a buffet can also be arranged in advance to really make a day of it.
Price: The tour costs £10 per person
SoGlos loves: Rather uniquely, Stroud Brewery’s award-winning drinks include organic and vegan selections, as well as seasonal choices.
For more info: See Stroud Brewery or call (01453) 887122.
Venue: Wickwar Brewery
When: Brewery tours can be booked in advance, usually on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, or on Saturday lunchtimes.
The lowdown: The micro brewery sits in the ‘Old Cooperage’ in the village of Wickwar and was founded by three enterprising Bristol landlords in 1990. With an ethos of using only natural ingredients of malted barley, subtle blends of hops, its own strain of yeast and water from the Cotswolds – and not an additive in sight – Wickwar has produced a fine range of beers, including the award-winning BOB, the yellow-gold and refreshing Coopers’ WPA, and the smooth, dark and complex Station Porter.
The tour includes: Groups of between 12 and 25 people can take a two-hour guided tour of the historic brewery and see some of its original features as well as learn a little about its history and the processes behind its award-winning ales. There’s, of course, plenty of opportunity to sample its produce too, and organisers can lay out a buffet to complement the beer tasting.
Price: The tour costs £10 per head
SoGlos loves: Not only can visitors take home with them an etched pint glass as a memento, but they can also take advantage of a 10 per cent discount off any purchases made in the brewery shop on the day.
For more info: See Wickwar Brewery or call (01454) 299592.
By Shelly Elcock
Saturday 30 March 2013
SoGlos goes in the studio with Gloucestershire’s most gifted, prominent – and sometimes most peculiar – artists to discover...
Dainty finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and steaming pots of the finest blends await in SoGlos’s guide to some of the...
The sounds of free alfresco jazz and big brass bands will be filling the air at Cheltenham’s Montpellier Gardens and...
This summer holidays in Gloucestershire, see SoGlos’s guide to keeping children of all ages entertained, and out of mischief,...
Rain or Shine Theatre Company is back on the road this summer, with a tour of Shakespeare’s farcical Comedy of Errors being...