Brand Snapshot | New ‘cathedral of brewing’ opens in Kent
These days, new breweries are commonly built on light industrial estates on the outskirts of town. They are production warehouses, often tucked away and difficult to get to.In May 2019, however, a new brewery opened with a completely different approach. The Curious Brewery, a brand-new, state-of-the-art, multi-million pound ‘cathedral of brewing’ opens right in the heart of Ashford, Kent, directly opposite the railway station. As accessible as it is beautiful.
The brewery has a bar, first-class restaurant and gardens inspired by the Kent landscape to relax in. This is a brewery in the way we Brits used to do breweries: an integral part of its setting, a local employer, a focal point for its town, as well as a maker of finest quality beer.
And make no mistake, this is fine beer. Curious Brew, for those not yet acquainted is, after all, owned by Chapel Down, England’s largest winemaker. And while Curious’ MD, Gareth Bath, used to hold the same position at Brewdog and Head Brewer Matt Anderson was nabbed from AB InBev, there is a unique third member of this team – Chapel Down’s Head Winemaker Josh Donaghay-Spire.
The new brewery will take inspiration from the tourism experiences offered at the Chapel Down Winery. Curious’ Cicerone-trained team will host small group tours of the brewery facility that will tell the full field-to-throat story of their range of premium beers and ciders.
Curious guests will be taken on a journey through the production side of the brewery before sitting down for a tasting of the core range & any limited batch beers straight from the tanks, to ensure the freshest and best quality beer is enjoyed by all.
The building, set in a 1.6 acre site, houses a total of 19 fermentation tanks, with a total capacity of 2,900hl, meaning that the brewery can hold almost 500,000 pints of beer at any one time.
Beer will be kegged and bottled on site, producing more than 4,000 bottles per hour in bespoke Curious bottles. In addition, un-pasteurised beer will be piped directly to the restaurant from Bright Beer tanks on-site, ensuring the freshest and best quality beer to visitors.
The new Curious Brewery will transform the brand’s production. The 50HL 5-vessel brewhouse enables the team to more than quadruple its current total brewing volumes, producing approximately 80khl of beer, or more than 4.5m pints, per year. Yet still allows them to stay incredibly versatile, by brewing smaller batch sizes for improved freshness and quality and even launching an exclusive small batch series.
Curious Brew Managing Director, Gareth Bath, says, “We’ve been talking for a long time about how our drinks are ‘a conversation with the earth’, whether we’re using grapes, apples or hops, pretty much everything we do relies on Mother Nature’s bounty as a start-point. From there on we add the experience and the passion of our first-class Chapel Down team to make the very finest English beers, ciders and wines. This brewery absolutely follows that wider philosophy.
“And it is a cathedral of brewing in every sense. The soaring point of the roof has spire-like qualities, the people who work with and for us have a devotion I’ve not come across before and we hope the congregation of Kentish and British beer-lovers will come and visit regularly, we are here to serve.
“The brewery ground floor will consist of a 1,000sq foot shop, bar and hosting area for the tours. Spectacular landscaped kitchen gardens taking inspiration from the Kent coastline at Dungeness Headland and the raw hop and barley ingredients of Curious beers, alongside a waterfall feature cascading from the front of the brewery, will complete the ground floor.
“The first floor will feature a premium 4,000sq foot bar and two dining rooms, where an open kitchen will serve modern British cuisine with ingredients sourced from local suppliers.
“In the luxury private dining room, once a week, guests will have the opportunity to book onto special master-classes hosted by one of the brewery-team and featuring a bespoke menu from the kitchen, each carefully paired with a beer from the Curious range to showcase the quality local ingredients.
“We want the Curious Brewery to be both a one-off experience and a much-loved and much-visited local venue. If you’ve never been around a brewery before, I’d really recommend coming and taking part in one of our tours, finding out the full field-to-glass story behind what and how we do what we do from our Cicerone-trained team, who will also be able to explain how we bring a winemakers touch to the process.
“If you live locally in Kent or Sussex, we hope the Curious Brewery will become somewhere you consider again and again for drinks and for dinner. And because we’re right by the station in Ashford, if you’re coming from London, we’re only half an hour on the train from King’s Cross!”
Head Brewer Matt Anderson says, “Being involved in the building of a new brewery is any brewer’s dream, not least because we’ve been able to stipulate every detail of the brewing process. This means having things like a specially designed Brewhouse with an external calandria design that gives us increased control on the boiling process, allowing us to consistently brew beers of the highest quality.
“But the real fun starts here, and we can really begin our Brewing adventure, whilst welcoming all of our curious visitors.
“Our whole focus is on serving the changing expectations of modern premium and craft-beer drinkers. So, as well as brewing the core range of Curious Brew, Curious Session IPA, Curious Porter and Curious Apple, we’ll also be making regular limited editions, both with our team here, and occasionally with other like-minded brewers and customers who share our philosophy.”
For tours, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01233 528 300.
(Tastings from 10th May, full tours from June 2019)