The big increase in small breweries is an – almost – unalloyed pleasure. The sense that anyone can make beer has unleashed all sorts of new and exciting beers, and a few duds, pushed of course by the concept of “craft”. The new products come from a range of players – home brewers wanting a business, existing tiny brewers given a new lease of life, well-trained and well-backed start-ups, and bigger brewers finding a way to ride the new wave.

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I’d heard good things about Round Corning Brewing in Melton, but wasn’t sure where they stood on this continuum. A visit to meet the pair behind it has inspired me to think this is one of the best conceived and executed new breweries in the region and one that is making beers right up there with the best of UK.

The company was founded by two Irishman who met in New Zealand. Head brewer Colin Paige is a graduate of the celebrated Heriot Watt University brewing course. Over the last 25 years he has set up breweries and produced award-winning beer in places including Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand. It was in Wellington where he met business partner Crombie Cryan and between them they came up with the idea to create their own brewery. It could really have been anywhere until fate gave them a shove towards Melton Mowbray.

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Colin Paige (left) and Combie Cryan

As it happened a friend had just bought Melton Cattle Market. That’s the largest town centre cattle market in the UK. One that generates some 350,000 thirsty visitors every year, that is a social and economic hub for the farming industry for miles around, and one that is in the heart of a town with a thriving independent food and drink scene. Not only that, but the East Midlands has the lowest level of market penetration by small independent breweries in the UK. Just one and a half pints out of every 100 comes from an indy. So the market opportunity was definitely there.

20190920_125219With money raised from friends and family, some £650,000 was spent in kitting out the brewery and creating a simple, down to Earth brewery tap with clear sight to the mash tuns and fermenting vessels. You walk in just yards from the chatter of the auctioneer and are immediately assailed with heady smell of hops.

It’s a proper rural business in the heart of its community, but it’s being done with excellence in mind. The use of water softening and steam for example is not cheap but it does help give the brewer far greater control. ‘So what does “craft” really mean?’ states Colin. ‘In my mind it’s the pursuit of excellence and that’s what we are about. Also balance, innovation and drinkability – maybe overused words in brewing but they can result in great beers.’

20190922_161200Round Corner are currently selling their great beers in 120 pubs and their brewery tap. The core range is characterised by distinctive, crisp beers done very well – no self-consciously wacky stuff, no straining for an elusive, illusory zeitgeist. They include Frisby, a bright, clean lager that picked up a Silver at the International Brewing Awards and Gun Metal, a black lager with a creamy head and counter-intuitively crisp taste which won a Gold and immediately established them as a serious presence. My personal favourite was Hopping Spree, a 6.8per cent hop bomb and among the best in this style I’ve ever tried. With centennial, cascade, amarillo, simcoe, mosaic and citra hops, it positively erupts with flavour.

There are usually a couple of seasonal specials – they are currently coming to the end of Drover’s , a dry-hopped summer pale ale. Watch out soon for something fitting for Oktoberfest. Also coming is another black lager with some barrel aging from a Barbados rum cask, a smokey rauchbier and an oyster stout.

Colin and Crombie plan to grow the business in controlled way. They want to keep their product premium and to continue to exploit their firm East Midlands base, not least by teaming up with other Melton independent food businesses. There are also considerable tax duty advantages to keep the brewery under a certain size. With that big 98.5 per cent of the market to aim at though, here’s a go ahead operation with plenty of scope to grow.

 


 

 

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It’s Indian restaurants in all their thrilling diversity that are creating waves in Leicester right now.

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First off we’ve finally got innovative chain Mowgli opening in St Martin’s Square this week after a delay linked to gas suppliers apparently. For their opening week (not including Saturday)  they are giving 50 per cent off, no bookings just turn up, on their varied menu of streetfood-inspired Indian comfort food. I’m especially looking forward to the likes of green ginger & rhubarb dahl, owner Nisha Katona’s dad’s recipe of slow cooked lamb curry with anise, plums and chickpeas, and the house keema curry – minced lamb with roast cumin, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, peas, tomatoes and pulses. All the dishes look to be presented with great style and there is a nice range of options from wraps and snacks to full-on curries. They have also helpfully pulled out dishes to create gluten-free and vegan menus.

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There’s more information on another delayed opening, the highly anticipated Tandem by celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala in the former Memsaab premises in Highcross. There’s a launch event on Thursday 26 September and it should be open to the public soon after. We also now have a first glimpse of the food in the form of a taster plate menu. Todiwala’s Parsee heritage (Parsees were Zoroastrian immigrants to India from Iran) and his commitment to reflecting the wide variety of Indian cuisine means there’s a wider than usual  range of ingredients present, including beef and pork dishes. Highlights look like being Goan pork vindaloo (featuring rare breed British Lop pork), Barbary duck tikka cooked in the Syriac Christian tradition from Kerala, and chicken strips marinated in a green masala, served on a bed of parsee-style pickles. The menu is big on high quality sourcing, much of it (including chicken and breads) is from Leicestershire, but much is from wherever they see quality – beef and salmon from Scotland, organic pork from Devon. I look forward to discovering more soon.

levy_band.pngElsewhere long-time Keralan favourite Kayal is trying something new with live music from one of their regular customers. Dr Miles Levy is a well-known endocrinologist at Leicester Royal Infirmiary with a passion for music. This coming Friday 20 September he will be playing melodic originals and covers with his band The Levy, including some fellow senior health care professionals. Further gigs are being planned for the future. Music is from 7.30pm and booking recommended.

 

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