Designed by Guy Hollaway Architects, the Curious Brewery at Ashford, Kent, combines two functions in a single ‘supershed’: alongside the stainless pipes and vats of the production facility is a new visitor attraction comprising space for tastings, a shop, restaurant and bar. “The building makes a bold statement about modern brewing in Britain”, says the architect, “with a suitably ‘curious’ black facade 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”.
A sense of the theatricality of brewing also extends to the production facility. Several of the brewery’s giant tanks, including grain and yeast silos, are located on the outside of the building, gleaming against the black flank of the shed, and together with metal stairs and ladders lend a hi-tech air. A 10-metre-wide, six-metre-high glazed elevation also displays the processes taking place inside.
Twenty-one fermentation tanks mean that the brewer can hold up to 170,000 pints of beer on site, but also brew in smaller batches as required for freshness and taste. The whole manufacturing process is located on the ground floor, within a double-height space, and incorporates a 15-metre turntable to the rear of the building to allow efficient import of raw materials and export of beer.
Visitor facilities are located at one end, where the building rises to a pitched roof to give additional capacity internally, and some external architectural presence to the most prominent corner of the site.
The 4,000-square-foot first-floor restaurant and bar are “a British take on the concept of the German beer hall”, says the architect. The space features long tables, high ceilings and internal windows into the brewhouse below. Beer is piped directly from on-site tanks. “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”, says the architect. 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.
A bar and shop at the front of the brewery lead to landscaped garden inspired by the Kent coastline at Dungeness, and featuring the raw hop and barley ingredients used in Curious Beer.
Sited next to Ashford International Station, the facility is highly visible. “This is a brewery in the great tradition of the way we Brits used to do breweries,” says Gareth Bath of owner Chapel Down Group. “It is an integral part of its setting, a local employer and a focal point for the town”.