Saturday, 16 June 2012

A Curious Brew?

In my last post I mentioned how the number of breweries in Kent had now reached the magic figure of 25, and wondered if this number could survive in what is a very competitive and, at times, cut-throat market. However, reading reports submitted by  the various CAMRA Brewery Liaison Officers, it seems they are all reporting buoyant and, often increasing, sales which is good news indeed. One way they can continue to grow is by specialising in certain areas and, perhaps offering something unique that will appeal to certain small, but growing niche markets. The latter course can quite often be financially rewarding for a company, particular when it is one of the first on the scene

I was prompted to write this post after picking up a couple of what I would call "boutique-style" beers in our local Waitrose the other day, and having tried them I have to say they are rather good. The beers in question are Curious Porter and Curious IPA. Both come packaged in attractively labelled 33cl bottles and, what's more, they appear to be brewed in Kent.  According to the back label on the bottle, the beers are produced by English Wines Group plc., at the Chapel Down Winery, just outside Tenterden. This company does NOT feature on the list I alluded to in my last post, so if they are actually brewed at Tenterden, this brings the number if breweries in the county to 26!

Curious Porter is described as a "Bottle-conditioned, English Porter, matured with oak". It has an abv of 5.0% and according to the producers has been brewed from a mixture of crystal, chocolate, black and amber malts, all made from floor malted Sussex barley. The "bittering hop" is Sussex grown Admiral with a small amount of Goldings added as late hops. The notes then go on to say: "Matured with oak to give a delicate balance of sweetness and bitterness, this beer is bottle-conditioned and un-pasteurised to preserve the extraordinary flavours."

Curious IPA is described as an "Intensely hopped India Pale Ale". It has an abv of 5.6% and is brewed using the finest pale ale malt and three complimentary hops; Goldings, Bramling Cross and Citra. The producers claim that in balancing these three hops they have created "a beer of great power yet drinkable harmony." Whilst I wouldn't quite put it that way myself, I have to agree they have created an excellent beer, and one I will certainly be trying again.

The porter is equally good, and looking on the company's website, I notice they also produce a similarly packaged, 4.7% abv lager, called simply Curious Brew, which is cold-filtered and un-pasteurised. Although one might expect a corporate website to say this, there appears to be a good ethos about the company, and they certainly seem committed to producing top quality wines and beers. They state "We have assembled a team of highly professional, talented people who share an ambition to create truly World Class, interesting, distinctive and award-winning wines that will surprise and delight the most discerning consumers." 

It appears that renowned brewer Andy Hepworth, has been involved with the brewing, so whether the beers are produced at his Horsham brewery rather than Tenterden, remains to be seen. Whatever the case they are very good and well worth a try if you spot them on the shelf of your local supermarket.

"Curious Brew is a range of three beers that are a fusion of brewing and wine-making techniques.
Drawing on both beer know how from Andy Hepworth multi-award winning brewer from Sussex and wine-making expertise from Chapel Down, we believe this range of beer offers the discerning beer drinker a unique experience.
Well balanced, carefully considered and patiently brewed. Curious Brew represents the best of English brewing."


David, Little Omenden Farm and Nursery said...

I've tried an enjoyed these:rumour has it that Chapeldown either have, or are going to instal a micro brewery at Smallhythe. I think that we'll be over that way in a couple of weeks-I'll try to find out more. They used to do a beer called Cobbs, utilising the eponymous hop, which was rather tastey as I recall.

Ed said...

I've enjoyed the Curious Brew's I've tried but they are brewed by Hepworths.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks for the updates, Dave and Ed. If Dave is right about Chapel Down installing their own micro-brewery, then we will have 26 breweries operating in the county. Mind you, I see from the latest issue of Sussex Drinker that there are now 30 breweries in our neighboring county!

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