Hygiene Partner for Curious Brewery
Our reason for being is to inspire people to stay curious. To question. To celebrate. To smile more. To never graduate from the school of life.
This is the opening greeting on independent, award-winning Curious Brewery’s homepage. And yes, it does make you curious to know more.
As the craft beer market becomes increasingly competitive, it is even more important to stand out from the pack. This means consistently creating and producing outstanding product. We talk to Wesley Lynch, Head of Production at Ashford-based Curious Brewery as to how they achieve this.
Curious is a fully independent brewery, run by brewers and focused on making the UK’s best lager, IPA and cider. Their journey began through the Kent-based winemaker Chapel Down who introduced their first beer product in 2011, Curious Brew lager. Initially, as there was no brewery on site, Chapel Down contracted out production, first to Everards and then to Fullers. In April 2021 Risk Capital Partners, (RCP), purchased Curious in what set out as a passion-led project for their CEO, Luke Johnson.
The site for the brewery in Kent was purchased in late 2017 and doors to the brand new brewery opened on May 10, 2019. The project cost around £16m with an addition of £6m equipment sourced from around the globe, including fermentation vessels from Austria and the Brew House from China.
As of Summer 2022, the brewery has brewed approx. 7.5 million pints. Their biggest seller and flagship beer is Curious Brew Lager which boasts a clean, fruity, and aromatic finish. During the summer months Curious Apple, an aromatic cider fermented with Bacchus wine yeast, is not far behind.
There is also a Curious Session IPA brewed with three complementary hops and their newest product, Kentish Pilsner brewed in celebration of Kent’s hop-growing heritage, was launched in 2022.
It’s not just the beer though that makes you curious, even the name of the Brew-House gets you asking questions.
The original brewery site was home to a primary school and in 1943 one very smart and forward-thinking teacher, a Miss Ellen Adams, saved the school’s pupils and staff from a bombing raid that flattened the school and most of Ashford’s railway lines too. On hearing distant air raid sirens Miss Adams promptly escorted all the pupils to the air raid shelter where they stayed safe and sound.
Hence the Brew House is named in her honour, the Miss Ellen Adams, with her Grandson officially opening the facility in 2019.
So, what makes Curious Brew different? Wes explains in more detail.
“We may brew lagers, but they aren’t your standard lagers. We want to brew characterful beer which celebrates the ingredients that go into it. We use a lot of hops in our products which gives us a more flavourful product once it’s finished. We may no longer have the winemaking connection through Chapel Down, but what we want to celebrate is the provenance of Kent and the hops grown here.
We have been gradually shifting more and more of the hops used in our brews to locally sourced ones. This has a great impact on sustainability as well as the freshness of the ingredients we use. Fresher hops help make fresher beers with bright, citrusy flavours.
The addition of champagne yeast and Nelson Sauvin hops means we have a lot more hops to clean out at the end of our processes. The physical debris is always a challenge and a good hygiene partner is crucial to help us stay on top of our game and ensure a pristine brewing environment.
I wasn’t happy with the level of service I was being provided by our hygiene partner and wanted a more personal connection. Anyone can supply chemicals but it’s the knowledge and the friendly face behind it that are really valuable.
What I discovered is that Christeyns Food Hygiene really goes the extra mile to encourage their account managers to work closely with clients. They make time for proper visits and have a good reporting structure with audits to highlight areas that need attention from hygiene to chemical safety. They visit monthly as a minimum and produce a detailed report about any findings or recommendations. In the past we have found with other suppliers that they do the bare minimum to keep the contract and don’t necessarily value us in the same way as some larger clients.
Since using CFH we have done a lot of work on our brewhouse CIP procedures. We standardised and validated the process and ended up with a much better result. As this is one area where malt and hops and heat make the equipment that much harder to clean, it has been an invaluable improvement for us.
We have also installed an automatic testing and dosing unit for the detergent on our keg washer/filler. This has allowed us to have much more confidence in the cleanliness of our kegs before they are filled. Dirty kegs have a huge impact on beer quality and can lead to sourness and haze, so this is one of our key areas for brewery hygiene.
I look for an account manager I can get along with and good service and expertise in a chemical supplier. Chemicals are just chemicals at the end of the day – it’s how they are used that counts. Having a supplier that knows best practice (and particularly safe practice!) that matters. We work with Justin Adams at Christeyns and he has carried out numerous chemical handling training sessions with my team as well, so they are knowledgeable about the risks they are taking on. Health and safety is always at the top of our list – followed closely by quality.”
Not one to rest on their laurels, Curious are firmly set on the future and working on several initiatives.
The brewery recently purchased Wild Beer Co. from administration and are now in the process of working with their brewer and founder to bring those beers online at the Curious site. Although still in the early days this will mean new challenges with a lot more beer and many different styles. From a hygiene perspective, their famous Wild, or sour beer, can only be produced in an environment with impeccable hygiene standards.
Sustainability is a personal focus for Wes this year. As well as looking at shortening raw material supply chains the brewery now sends spent grain to aerobic digestion rather than animal feed. There are also discussions underway with a local hop farmer about taking the used hops as potential fertiliser for next year’s hop crop which diverts it away from the drain.
Negotiations are under way with a new waste supplier to improve the brewery’s recycling programme and they are also looking into CO2 recovery, solar panels, and electric vehicles.
Wes concludes: “It’s a really exciting time and we have a ton of work to do to improve, but if we want to keep sourcing Kentish hops and British malt then we need to do our part to look after the farmers growing those crops. At the end of the day beer is a natural product and we need nature to provide – something which is looking increasingly challenging as climate change takes its toll.
CFH has always been supportive of using less chemical and optimising how we use it – this is counterintuitive for them as it means we would purchase less, but that’s a mark of a good supplier who looks after their customers and the environment as a whole rather than always selling more.”
In 2019 Curious won the UK Brewer of the Year award and Gold medal at the World Beer Awards for their product Curious Brew. The brewery continues to go from strength to strength.