I was fortunate enough to attend a wedding last weekend, held at the rather nice Chapel Down Winery in Kent. As well as being a winery, they have a small range of bespoke beers brewed for them under the brand ‘Curious Brews‘.
As becoming the winery’s reputation (Awarded ‘Kent’s Best Vineyard’ 2007 and 2008) their beers are brewed ‘The Beer Station’ in Horsham, West Sussex by Andy Hepworth, the brewer who started ‘The Beer Station’ in 2000 when the well regarded King & Barnes brewery closed.
The Curious Brew Brut is their lager offering, brewed by with input from Chapel Down’s winemaker Frazer Thompson. The literature suggests that:
“Curious Brew Brut is a truly premium brewed lager beer. Brewed using highest quality East Anglian Malt and Cascade and Saaz hops, the beer undergoes a secondary fermentation using specially selected sparkling wine yeast. This process adds complexity, body, aroma and a soft finish on the palate not found in other premium lagers. A much longer brewing cycle gives this beer a dry distinctiveness and quality unmatched in other lager beers.”
All good provenance, I was looking forward to tasting this…
And was bitterly disappointed. What I tasted was a bland lager offering, no noticeable hops on the nose, and little head to speak of. Other reviewers have detected “real summer meadow nose, with lots of grassy aromas and little floral hints” – nope. Maybe the beer was too cold, I guess it’s time to try something at room temperature… nope, nothing of note.
Flavour-wise there are some hops lurking around in the background giving an underlying bitterness, the foreground flavours are mainly toffee and fruit, not what you’d expect and certainly nothing to justify the ‘sparkling wine’ hype.
To me it simply reinforces my observation about Kasteel Cru, the other ‘champagne yeast’ lager I’ve tasted – “somebody’s really done their homework on this one“.
Overall I’m afraid this gets one star… and I think that’s being generous but the Beer Station Beers are sterile filtered rather than pasteurised.
And in terms of pricing – following some recent comments – the vineyard shop was charging £1.49 for a 330ml bottle – that’s about $2.45 and not too bad, but the bar in the wedding reception was charging a whopping £3.85 a bottle ( about $6.33)… I know they have to pay bar staff and all that, but a mark-up of 160% for a journey of about fifty feet?
I’m tempted to strip them of their lone star.