Curious Brew IPA
It can’t have been easy getting people to take UK wine seriously. But that’s pretty much what Chapel Down’s CEO Frazer Thompson has been doing for the past decade. He’s been doing a pretty good job of it too.
Based in Tenterden, nestled amongst the hop farms of Kent and a mere 90 miles north of France’s champagne region, their winery has been knocking critics for six with their world class wines. Including the fizzy variety which we imagine is very annoying if you are French.
In 2010 Frazer decided that it was time for Chapel Down to start making beer. As a former strategy director of Whitbread and global brand director for Heineken, he knew a bit about the beer industry. Whilst this was a shrewd business decision for a wine company working flat out, it was also a reaction to a lot of the uninspiring mass market beer available at that time. Out of curiosity what sort of beer could a winery make?
We don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn’t tried it yet but the answer is that it’s really rather good.
Their first beer was the Curious Brew, an award winning hoppy lager. This was shortly followed by a porter (think the pinot noir of beers) and an IPA.
It’s the latter that we’re featuring this week and we were intrigued what a winemaker’s take on this now ubiquitous style would be. The result is a more traditional version of an India Pale Ale; the kind that uses a blend of very British malts and hops and the sort that Pete Brown wrote about in his book, Hops and Glory. It’s very drinkable. We suspect that many of you will tell us that one wasn’t enough. There’s also enough going on to stop and savour it for a moment. It’s no hop bomb or juicy banger that’s for sure but there’s some spice in there and enough hops and alcohol to make us think… Sauvignon Blanc?
It seems that the accolades and market for Curious Brew continue to grow. Whilst their beers thus far have all been made by Leicester-based brewer Everards, this looks set to change later this year. Following on from a hugely successful crowd funding campaign in 2016 Curious Brew have announced plans to build there own brewery facilities in Ashford, a mere 12 miles from their Tenterden winery.
It won’t be any old brewery and tap house though. The 1.6 acre site will house a state-of-the-art brewery and visitor centre designed by RIBA award wining and Kent-based architect Guy Holloway. You can read more about it on the Chapel Down website if you are, err, curious. We’ll certainly be putting our hands up for an invite to the opening.