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Chapel Down gives beer business £1m boost

English wine producer Chapel Down has launched its second crowdfunding initiative of the year, seeking £1 million to boost its beer business and build a new brewery.

The Kent-based winemaker produces beer and cider through its Curious Drinks subsidiary, with its latest bid launched with the aim of keeping pace with the fast-growing demand for craft beer.

Earlier this year the producer smashed its fundraising target by raising £2.9 million from investors in just 10 days, its original being £1.6m.

Funds raised were used to fund vineyard expansion, the building of a new winery and expansion of its hospitality facility in Tenterden, Kent. Within six months it had boosted its total acreage by 80% to around 326 acres, and has added a further 82 acres at a new leased site in Boxley on the North Downs.

Now the producer is turning its attention to beer, launching a second crowdfunding initiative to secure finance to fund a new brewery in Ashford, which will also include a restaurant and shop.

Last month the company reported that sales of beer and cider were up 33% to £974k, with its portfolio gaining momentum in the premium off trade.

Launching its latest initiative on crowdfunding site Seedrs, Frazer Thompson said that he sees “a lot of parallels” between the growing success of English wine and beer, having founded Chapel Down 14 years ago and contributing to the category’s success.

“English wine is no longer the butt of jokes”, said Thompson. “It’s served in some of the best restaurants in the world, it wins serious international accolades and, of course, sits alongside Grand Marques of Champagne at premium prices in major supermarkets”, adding: “We see a lot of parallels with lager. Yes lager. The world’s favourite beer now reduced to a sad fizzy yellow liquid – a testament to big brewer blandness, where market research wins over passion and corporate cardboard trumps taste. Where the only thing that changes seems to be the advertising. Where it’s big news if the logo font is upped a point.”

The company is already in talks about purchasing a 1.7 acre plot in Ashford and hopes the brewery will be up and running by December next year. Investors will own shares in Curious Drinks, with various incentives offered for different levels of investment, including brewery tours, limited edition cases of beer and the chance to have your name etched onto a fermentation tank.

The campaign has already raised £268,000 of its £1m target.

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