Raising a glass with The Cotswold Brewing Company

The founders of The Cotswold Brewing Company, Rick and Emma Keene, chat to SoGlos about running their independent microbrewery, the latest brewing trends and developing their own spirits.

Based in a beautiful setting on the outskirts of Bourton-on-the-Water, The Cotswold Brewing Company is a family-run microbrewery specialising in producing additive-free lager and speciality beers, along with gin and vodka.

SoGlos chats to founders, Rick and Emma Keene, to find out what it’s like to run a brewery in the heart of the Cotswolds, along with discussing the latest brewing trends, while also sharing some delicious cocktail recipes for their premium spirits.

How did you first get involved in the world of beer?

Rick is a trained brewer and was working for Archers in Swindon when we first met. When we got married he started an MBA course at Oxford Brookes and when he was coming to the end of his course he started to think about what he wanted to do next.

So how did Cotswold Brewing develop?

I’m not a great ale fan, although I’d grown to enjoy a pint or two when Rick was working at Archers, so I said if we were going to own a brewery, I’d really like it to be something I like and suggested we set up a larger microbrewery instead.

In 2005 there were probably about 500 microbreweries around and they were all centred on brewing ale so we wanted to do something different.

What challenges did you face with setting up a lager microbrewery?

At the time, about 70 per cent of beer drunk in the UK was lager rather than ale, so for Emma, with a background in sales, it was about selling a product that didn’t have any immediate competitors. You’ve got a bigger share of the market, so it seemed like a really obvious thing to do.

Everyone thought we were really mad including my cousin, the then owner of Wychwood Brewery, who said we’d be brewing ale by Christmas. But over 10 years later, we’re still going from strength to strength.

What’s your personal favourite beer?

I love our wheat beer. I’ve got a soft spot for it because, pre-children, Rick and I used to go skiing a lot and we used to drink a lot of wheat beer in Austria and Germany.

If we ever get a spare afternoon we tend to spark up the barbecue here at the brewery and just enjoy the view that overlooks our paddock.

What’s your most popular beer?

Our most popular is the Cotswold premium, which is a 5 per cent German-style larger and was the first beer we launched with over 10 years ago.

What do you think the next brewing trends will be?

I think there will be more keg beer available from microbreweries and also the big brewers. I think they’ve realised that there’s a need to offer greater diversity in terms of lagers.

What are the qualities of a successful brewer?

Rick would say something completely different to me but I would say a good brewer needs to be good at cleaning, patient, have lots of stamina because it’s a very physical job with long hours, and most importantly a great love for beer.

Do you offer brewery tours?

We’re in a rural farm location so we just tend to offer the tours during the summer months. It costs £15 for a two-hour visit which includes a tour of the brew house, a detailed talk about the different types of beer and how it’s made, and then they go through the sampling process of most of our beers.

How did Spirit of the Cotswolds come about?

I love gin; it’s always been my drink of choice over everything else and I thought it would be really cool to have my own brand of gin. The gin was my baby because I’d travelled abroad with my job and had tasted lots from all around the world so it was just really nice to use that knowledge.

How different was it to go from producing beers to spirits?

They are completely different processes. We don’t actually distill it here because of an ancient bylaw that says a brewery can’t have a still on site so we went to Thames, a very established London distillery, and used their expertise to develop our recipe and distill it for us.

Tell us about deciding on the gin’s ingredients

I chose flavours that reflected the Cotswolds. We put hops as an obvious tie in to the brewery and then we used hawthorn berries as they grow all round the brewery; verbena because it grows in our garden; and the main citrus note is lime because I always prefer that in a drink.

Do you have any favourite cocktails to make with your spirits?

We have the Cotswold Mother’s Ruin which is two parts gin, one part elderflower cordial, topped up with sparkling water and a squeeze of lime. The other one is the Cotswold Donkey, which is our take on a Moscow Mule and mixes Cotswold Vodka with ginger beer and a squeeze of lime over lots of crushed ice.

Where do you like to eat or drink in Gloucestershire?

If we ever get a spare afternoon we tend to spark up the barbecue here at the brewery. We’ll sit out on the forecourt and have a G&T in my case and a beer for the boys and just enjoy the view that overlooks our paddock.

And finally, what’s the best thing about job?

It’s such a fun place to work; we’ve got a lovely team of about 11 of us and we don’t ever get that Sunday night feeling. It’s a really exciting and vibrant industry to be working in.

For more information see The Cotswold Brewing Company or call (01451) 824488.

© SoGlos
Thursday 24 March 2016

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