AN ENTREPRENEUR from Leamington is spicing things up for curry-loving ale drinkers.
Surj Virk developed Empress Ale to compliment spicy food due to the lack of choice he felt he was offered when dining in Indian restaurants.
And after making a huge impact with Indian chefs and restauranteurs in London following its launch in London last year he is now introducing it to the West Midlands.
In the capital it has has been added to the drinks list of three highly acclaimed restaurants – the Michelin starred Benares, in Mayfair, owned by celebrity chef Atul Kochhar; Café Spice Namaste, near the Tower of London, owned by Cyrus Todiwala; and the recently Michellin starred Jamavar, also in Mayfair, whose head chef is Rohit Ghai.
Having established itself in such esteemed venues, Mr Virk says bringing Empress Ale to the West Midlands seemed a ‘natural next step’.
He said: “As well as London, I’ve now tried it out with some Indian restaurants in Leamington, and it’s been very well received.
“Next up is Asha’s in Birmingham city centre, and I’m very excited; after that I want to take it nationwide.
“The response to Empress Ale since its launch has been amazing, and being so enthusiastically received at high profile restaurants in Mayfair just blew me away.
“I’m a midlander and proud of it, but I wanted to roll it out in London, with some of the country’s top Indian chefs, because I felt that their endorsement would make it easier for me to promote it elsewhere.”
Mr Virk has already had Empress Ale recognised within the Government’s Great Britain campaign, which showcases the country’s finest artisan brands. Empress Ale has even been a guest beer at the Houses of Parliament.
The former a political advisor says he decided to craft his own ale because he became frustrated at the limited choice available to him at his favourite restaurants.
“This is a specialist ale for the discerning taste,” he said. “Far be it for me to tell people what to drink, but for me personally, I wanted to create something that was an alternative to what is normally available at Indian restaurants, and what I believe better suits the enjoyment of eating an Indian meal.”
Mr Virk, himself a lover of real ale, described Empress Ale as golden and smooth with malty and floral notes to compliment even the richest of curries, and also an easy drinking ale in its own right.
He added: “The feedback has been fantastic, not just from the chefs and the restaurant owners, but from customer reviews and market research, which has included people who don’t normally drink ale, but found my product a perfect fit to enjoy with their Indian meal.
“The response from abroad as been as exciting as it has in London,” he said. “I’m getting interest from countries in Europe and Asia – which is fantastic, but this is a long-term project, and the most immediate priority for me is winning over the Indian food lovers in Leamington, where I live and work, and around the West Midlands.”
The expansion has been helped greatly by investment from company chairman Grenville Turne, ex CEO of Countrywide Bank and Zoopla Board member.