But I really love gin!” The sassy wife of Rick Keene, founder of the Cotswold Brewing Company, enthuses as she speaks on their leap from lager to spirits. Seven years ago Richard and Emma Keene saw a gap in the market. With hundreds of micro-breweries across the country making ales; there were less than a handful making lager. Yet 70 per cent of the beer-drinking population drink lager. Richard decided to buck the Real Ale trend, and start the Cotswold Brewing Company. With years of brewing experience, the latest being the Head Brewer at Archers in Swindon, and plenty of friends to help taste their product, Richard created their signature lagers. Emma’s project management and sales background became instrumental in ensuring it was sold locally in Oxfordshire restaurants and pubs including the Jam Factory, The Lamb & Flag and the Big Bang. As their lagers increased in popularity and won “Best Lager” in several festivals, (generally the only lagers entered), Emma convinced Rick to try his trade on gin.

They visited Thames distillers in London and were suddenly faced with a lot more than the four ingredients it takes to make beer. First they created the base spirit, Cotswold Vodka. It is five times distilled grain vodka, which is extremely smooth and all too easy to sip. Next they searched for distinct flavours. The only rule they must stick with is that it must contain juniper.

For months, Emma had botanicals in jam jars around the kitchen. She wanted something “morish”, but also something found in the Cotswolds. After creating small batches, having friends tastes the varying concoctions, they came up with a winning recipe that satisfied Emma. It includes hops from the brewer, hawthorn berries from the bushes around the brewery paddock, lemon balm from Emma’s garden, all brought together by lime. Mix it with lemon, apple juice, rhubarb liqueur, and nettle cordial, as Alex Proudfoot did several weeks ago, and you have a “Forager’s Fancy,” a perfect Cotswold cocktail.

You can buy Cotswolds Gin & Vodka at the Oxford Wine Company for £31.50 each. Or contact Cotswold Brewing Company directly by visiting www.cotswoldlager.com, emailing sales@cotswoldlager.com or calling 01451 824488.