Motorway service stations are among the most depressing places on earth. No right-minded person takes pleasure in visiting them; they’re used out of necessity alone, extending motorway misery through a need for fuel, food or relief from a protesting bladder.
Or that used to be the case. On the M5, between junction 11a and 12, just outside Gloucester, is a new kind of motorway service station. It is elegantly cut into the rolling landscape, discreet with living roof and lacking in the usual barrage of neon and plastic. It supports the local food and farming businesses, meaning meals are worth stopping off for and the farm-shop style off-sales are worth taking home. And it has shelves packed with a huge range of local beers and ciders.
One of its most local suppliers, based in the city’s revived docks area, is Gloucester Brewery. Established in 2011, they’ve already scooped a large hatful of regional gongs for their hand crafted beers. We guzzled a few at last year’s Frocester beer festival and were mightily impressed, but we didn’t get round to trying the bronzed and frothy Mariner (or if we did it was past the time when (a) our memory still functioned and (b) writing a note wasn’t a dextrous challenge too far). So on a recent trip up the M5 I pulled in, fuelled up, and tucked a bottle of the stuff under the dashboard for a home time treat.
Mariner is a very well hopped beer. A initial moreish and slightly floral maltiness soon gives way to some rugged dry hop flavours. It has a mature feel to it – not lacking in freshness but as if it has been allowed to put slipper clad feet up in front of a log fire while the malt and hops steadily get to know each other. It dries out nicely in the mouth, too, making at superbly balanced brew all round. The bottle label suggests it would go down well with some roast pork and crackling so I’ve tested the theory as best as the larder will allow with a packet of pork scratchings. They’re not wrong.
It also tastes like it would be great at a beer festival, timed to coincide with the traditional munching of hog roast, so we’re hoping Gloucester Brewery will feature at Frocester again at this. Especially as we’re unlikely to find it them any service stations on that particular journey home.
Brewery: Gloucester Brewery
Beer name: Mariner
Hops used: Bobek, Cascade, Magnum