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Claude Arkell & Donnington Brewery

Small is indeed Beautiful. Many have nominated Claude Arkell's Donnington Brewery as the most picturesque in Britain. Everyone who has visited the brewery or one of their tiny estate of 15 pubs in and around Stow-on-the-Wold knows that here is a true brewer.

Aficionados will recognise the Arkell's name and you're right; there is a family connection. Claude Arkell is a cousin of the Swindon Arkells (another fine brewer) and even taught the current MD, James Arkell, the art of brewing.

I first came across a Donnington's house when a penniless student strawberry-picking in the summer holidays in the country and it made an indelible impression - as did the landlord's praise for the Donnington's way of running its estate. Some years later while planning the BBC, I called the brewery for some advice and was invited for a visit - I could not have received a warmer welcome.

It doesn't look like that because of some tourist committee, it looks like that because Mr Arkell thinks that is the right way to do things. You have geese and ducks on the millpond because that's how you keep the ecology right; you have a millpond for powering the mill producing the grist; you have an old copper intercooler because it has always done the job and (as Scotch distillers know) changing the equipment can affect the taste of the end-product; you choose the right landlords for your pubs and let them get on with it because they know how to serve their customers; and your customers keep coming back because your beer is beautifully served in nice pubs with a great welcome.

If there was one single brewery which exemplified the pure essence of a British Brewer, Donnington's is it - thanks to Claude Arkell. There are, glory be, many fine old and new Regional and Small Brewers all of whom are to be applauded and supported (preferably by drinking copious quantities of their excellent beers). But when the Vogons arrive and I am forced at gunpoint to select one, and only one, brewer to be saved to represent Earth in the Great Galactic Beer Festival, my choice would have to be Donnington's.

And if you would argue with that, feel free but please do me - and Mr Arkell - the honour of visiting a Donnington's house beforehand. Trust me: you'll thank me for it.

While researching this, I couldn't find a specific Donnington Brewery website so I hope the following links will do to be getting on with:

http://www.quaffale.org.uk/php/brewery/94

http://www.red-lion-inn.com/donningtoncountry.html

http://www.ingenious.org.uk/See/Societyandwars/Foodanddrinkindustries/?target=SeeMedium&ObjectID={99090AF3-960B-D07B-DDFD-23233E633C5C}&viewby=images

http://www.pubs2000.com/fox_home.htm

http://www.foxinnbarrington.co.uk/