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'Gloucestershire is a poor county for real ale': That was the sad assessment of the county's brewing heritage in the 1976 Good Beer Guide according to the Campaign For Real Ale. Just two breweries were in operation then, supplying only four real ales. The ubiquitous Whitbread PA was easy to find, but it took a determined effort to seek out the delights of XXX, BB and SBA from the highly regarded and picturesque Donnington Brewery near Stow on the Wold. It was all a far cry from the glory days of brewing in Gloucestershire, when most towns could boast their own local brewery producing beers of character. It's tempting to be over sentimental with the closure of once much-loved breweries such as Wintles Forest Brewery of Mitcheldean, Tayler's Cotswold Brewery of Northleach and so on ... but there were economic and social factors that made such rationalisation inevitable. With the closure of the Whitbread Flowers Brewery in Cheltenham in 1997, it was feared that the rich history of brewing in Gloucestershire was under threat. However, nearly twenty years later Gloucestershire is awash with breweries producing truly wonderful and distinctive beers. Indeed, beer drinkers have never had it better. Cheers!