“The brewery has raised the bar for Ashford. We’re delighted to have such an impressive looking development here, which is a real catalyst for driving forward the transformation of our town centre.” Tracey Kerly, Chief Executive, Ashford Borough Council

Curious Brewery, Ashford

Location: Ashford

Client: Chapel Down Group PLC

Completed: May 2019

Value: £5.95m

The Curious Brewery is a state-of-the-art new brewery in Ashford, Kent, designed and built for client Chapel Down. This ‘Cathedral of Brewing’ is situated on a 1.6acre former brownfield site on Victoria Road, at the heart of Ashford and opposite the Ashford International Station.

Opened in May 2019, Curious Brewery is the UK’s newest brewery and has transformed the brand’s production operations, quadrupling its output, as well as creating a new visitor attraction in the Kent region, with guided tours, tastings, a shop, restaurant and bar. Like the overall Curious brand, it is unlike anything else. Iconic in both appearance and location. It’s spire-like form and eye-catching entrance and waterfall promises to surprise and delight.

Designed by local architectural practice Hollaway Architects and MLM Consulting Engineers, the simple shed structure houses a complex technical fit out, with a 10m x 6m high glazed elevation displaying the brewhouse process inside. The building rises to a pitched roof to house the 100-seat restaurant, whilst creating external architectural presence to the most prominent corner of the site.

On the ground floor, the main entrance leads to 100sqft of accessible visitor facilities that include a bar and shop and landscaped gardens at the front of the site allow visitors to socialise outdoors before stocking up on products to take home. Inspired by the Kent coastline at Dungeness, the garden features the raw hop and barley ingredients used in Curious Beer.

The project team worked intricately with the client to address the complex functional requirements of the brewery within a super-shed structure, which celebrates the theatrical aspects of brewing and showcases production techniques and craftsmanship. The building makes a bold statement with a suitably ‘curious’ black façade, which gives little away until visitors step inside where it then opens up the modern brewing process to visitors with an immersive approach to the brand experience.

The 4,000sqft first floor restaurant and bar are a British take on the concept of the German beer hall, featuring long tables, high ceilings and a simple menu of classic British dishes designed to complement the beer itself, which is piped directly from on-site tanks. Diners can look through the restaurant windows into the brewhouse below. A private dining room set within the restaurant offers seclusion for those requiring a quieter or more personal dining experience and will host bookable masterclasses and special tasting menus. A modern industrial aesthetic complements the industrial processes on show with a palette of self-coloured steel for balustrading, bar glass storage and shelving, grey resin motion floor, and simple white metro tiles. The bar features a charred Kebony timber front and waxed steel bar top. A black aluminium lattice ceiling creates the perfect acoustic environment and references the external black diamond cladding.

The entire manufacturing process from grain delivery to beer export is located on the ground floor within a double height space and an internal layout that ensures maximum efficiency. 21 fermentation tanks are located on site, many externally to maximise space and create a strong visual presence. A vast 15 metre turntable is located to the rear of the building to facilitate efficient flow of collection and delivery lorries.

“This is a project which adds something special to Ashford. Something to make the whole community feel good. Something that exudes our faith in our craft. Something different and special to bring people together. Something that no one else can do. Something to celebrate”. Frazer Thompson, Chapel Down.