A while ago, fellow Brews News contributor James Davidson mentioned on Twitter he spotted a new brewery being installed at a Best Western Hotel in Kew. As a curious guy I kept an eye on its progress; it’s not every day you hear about a brewery opening up as part of a hotel.
As time passed, no one seemed to be mentioning it or really know anything about it and all I could turn up was their Facebook page, as well as a few brief mentions of the brewery around the internet. So I figured all that was left to do was to get in touch and go down to see for myself.
And yes, I can confirm there is a brewery at the Best Western in Kew. Nestled between a rather flash looking restaurant, complete with baby grand piano, and a more laid back bar, the 800L 2 vessel CIP brewhouse has just released its first beers, a pale ale, an amber ale and a pilsner.
“In the design phase of the hotel we came up with an idea of trying to do something a little different so we decided to put in a brewery in the front of the hotel,” said owner-turned-brewer, Brice Hateley.
With the stainless steel tanks being easily visible to the passing traffic, whether it is tram, foot or car, Robert Schiera, the hotel’s sales and marketing manager confirms that the point of difference is attracting people.
“It’s a real focal point, there’s always people walking past asking what it is… it puts a different spin on the restaurant the bar, as well as the hotel,” Robert said.
However with a brewery, you need a brewer and Brice enlisted the support of Vince Costanzo of Costanzo Brewing Consultants to help set up and learn how the run the brewery himself, which he admits hasn’t been easy.
“(I’d) never even homebrewed before, so it’s been a very steep learning curve over the last few months and obviously there’s a fair journey to go to be able to master the art,” Brice said.
However he is happy with the results so far.
“The Pilsner that’s coming on hopefully later this week will be the pick of the bunch. The style of beer we were aiming for is what we’ve achieved, where the Pale Ale is probably a little bitter so the recipe will be changing for next time. We ended up a bit short out of the mash tun with the pale ale and also the Amber Ale. A bit of changing of the mill and we got smack on where we wanted to be with the Pilsner,” he said.
Now it would be easy to be misanthropic here, particularly as a passionate homebrewer, and take a few shots at someone spending a lot of money to set up a working brewery simply as an added feature to a hotel complex. I’m sure many readers are already loading up those angry comments and grumbles, however I’m happy to argue that this is anything but a cynical attempt at latching on to the craft beer trend.
One pointer to it being more than that is Brice openly encouraging feedback about his beers.
“I’m open for criticism, I’m happy for people to tell me that like or if they don’t like. I’m happy to admit that I know so little. One guy told me my Amber Ale had a bit of diacetyl in it which is fine. When we designed the recipe we decided it wouldn’t be to too bad to have a little bit of diacetyl – just a little bit – and so it was interesting that someone could pick that up straight away,” he said, also adding they will modify and change the recipes taking into account customer feedback.
“We are not really stuck to a particular recipe. With all our beer labels we put what batch number it’s from on and every batch of Pale Ale will be different until we get something we are completely happy with.”
Another sign that this is more than gimmickry is the inclusion of three guest taps from local craft breweries, and at the time of my visit they were offering beer from True South, Mornington Peninsula and Otway Estate.
Local craft was offered from the outset, while the brewery was being set-up, and proved so popular that Carlton Draught was taken off tap because no one was buying it.
Finally, it’s always a good sign that it is a genuine attempt to make good beer is being able to discuss ingredients, and after talking to Brice, I can tell you that the Pale Ale is hopped with Pride of Ringwood and Galaxy and while the batch I tasted was slightly off-balance, Brice plans to tone back the IBUs and up the aroma with more Galaxy.
The Amber was my pick of the beers and is a decent malt-driven beer using cara-amber, crystal, kolsch malt and East Kent Goldings hops (for the record, I couldn’t pick the diacetyl). The Pilsner features Summer hops. While the Pilsner wasn’t pouring from the taps at the time, a taste from the tanks told me it was shaping up to be a nice sessionable beer for a hot summers day. There is also a German wheat to be released soon.
While I still suspect some cynics will come out of the woodwork to take shots at how this brewery was established – with money and no experience rather than the classic homebrewer to small brewer story that we all love – goals to make better beer while supporting fellow locals can only be good for craft-beer, while having a built-in audience of hotel guests right at their doorstep means that good local beer will be getting into more people’s hands. I don’t think any of us can begrudge that.
For those wanting to check out the beers, you’ll need to visit the brewery, where they are going straight from the fermenters to the taps, as there are no plans to offer them outside of the hotel. But I imagine even the cynics among you don’t need too much encouragement to visit to a brewery.
Brewery One One Five
115 Cotham Road, Kew.