While I didn’t exactly feel guilty about my review, when I saw two ‘Curious’ brews in a supermarket chain whose beer buyer I respect, I figured that it was perhaps worth revisiting the brews.
There was a possibility that (heaven forfend!) I’d got it wrong, that the brew had changed or that I simply had sampled from a sub-standard batch.
And, to be fair, I sampled the brew at a wedding reception; conditions which are far removed from my normal ‘controlled’ (or at least consistent) test conditions.
To recap, the guy who runs the Chapel Down Winery in Kent has a background in the beer trade and commissioned the brews from Andy Hepworth, a well-respected contract brewer, who brews it on their behalf (although the winery is considering commissioning their own on-site brewery).
A quick look at the back of the ‘Brut’ lager bottle reveals a change… now, after a secondary fermentation with champagne yeast the beer enjoys a ‘dosage’ of Nelson Sauvin hop before being cold filtered. Nelson Sauvin, you might recall, is an ‘new world’ hop, named from the Sauvignon Blanc grape and is the hop that imbues Thornbridge Kipling with its distinctive ‘elderflower’ flavour.
Okay, let’s give it a go.
Curious Brew Brut – 4.7% ABV
As you can see it pours a very pale golden colour, a classic pilsner style, with a brilliant white head that dissipates quickly.
The nose is distinctively elderflower – other reviewers have been less polite about the nose, but if you know the distinctive scent of elderflowers, then you know there are unfortunate comparisons.
The mouth-feel is crisp, refreshing, slightly sweet, more like a classic (Czech) Budweiser than a Pilsner, bit with that interesting blend of Saaz and Sauvin hops; there are subtle hints of honey in there.
While this is a complex and refreshing brew, all in all I think I still prefer Casteel Cru – as a ‘champagne yeast’ lager. And penny for penny (this is still quite pricey) I would probably go for Thornbridge Kipling, – but having revisited Curious Brew I wouldn’t have any problem drinking this again.
And as such, using our standard scoring system, I’ll give this three stars – a significant improvement on the single star I gave it in 2009.
Curious IPA 5.6% ABV
The brewery describes this as “balanced but powerfully hoppy” and brewed to 5.6% ABV, with a blend of classic (Goldings and Brambling Cross ) and modern (Citra) hops this promises to be the case.
This one pours honey-gold, with a crisp, white head that lingers longer than that of the lager, but still fades without any trace of lacing.
For an IPA, I didn’t get the hoppy nose I was expecting, maybe hints of honey sweetness, but the flavour reflected the promised hop blend, classic ‘old school’ hops in the background, with the citrusy modern hops in the lead. Imagine The Beatles singing ‘A Hard Day’s Night’…
As such this isn’t a classic ‘IPA’, nor a modern ‘APA’ or ‘PPA’ but it’s certainly refreshing and the flavour belies its underlying potency. I can’t disagree with the brewery’s claim to have “created a beer of great power yet drinkable harmony”.
I’m happy to give this three stars, and might even look out for their Porter!
So there you have it, I’ve overcome my prejudice and revisited a beer that I didn’t rate previously, and feel better (and refreshed) for the experience.
Have you revisited a beer and changed your opinion?
Bob the Brit