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Leicester brewed Ale hits Michelin-starred restaurant

A local Leicester dad and policy and project manager has had his passion for craft beer emphasised as he has created his very own ale, which has been designed to complement spiced food and change even Michelin-star restaurants for the better.

Surj Virk created his fantastic Empress Ale after he became more and more fascinated with craft beer over recent years. His Ale has already been added to the drinks list of the highly acclaimed Michelin-starred Benares Restaurant in London’s Mayfair, which is owned by celebrity culinary genius Chef Atul Kochhar.

Speaking to Pukaar News, Mr. Virk said: “I’m absolutely over the moon for a Michelin-Star restaurant to recognise the product itself and to agree to have it on their drink list.

“It is really positive both for myself and for the craft beer industry as it’s really important that they recognise that my ale complements the food they do serve.”

Photo Credit: The Empress Ale
Photo Credit: The Empress Ale

The Empress Ale creator said that his main reasoning for creating the drink was because he was becoming increasingly frustrated with the limited amount of ale on offer in his favourite restaurants, which lead to people having to order grassy lager with their curries.

Despite the fact that lager tends to clash with the food on offer and can minimise the flavour and spices, it is a common habit in most restaurants, he said: “I was determined to produce an ale that would be a great alternative to lager and would suit curries much better, with a small amount of carbonation and full flavour development.”

Since he made this decision, Surj spent months working alongside one of Leicestershire’s finest and award-winning breweries, Langton Brewery.

His hard work was paid off with the ringing endorsement from the Benares Restaurant.

Having been born in Blackpool to Indian parents and having moved to Leicester in his late teens, Surj felt that Empress Ale had to reflect both sides of his heritage.

The 36-year-old explained: “For the branding, I’ve taken inspiration from the British and Indian Raj; the logo is based on an old Indian stamp we found from the Victorian era.

“Plus the ale itself is brewed in a traditional British style, with the ingredients being sourced as locally as possible.”

Speaking personally to Pukaar News about the endorsement with Atul Kochhar’s well renowned restaurant, Mr. Virk said: “I’m very pleased indeed… it’s actually a dream come true. I’m a huge fan of him and his work.

“It’s my wife and I’s favourite restaurant, and I have a lot of his books at home.”

Talking about the taste of Empress Ale, Surj described it as golden and smooth, he added: “It has floral notes to complement even the richest of curries; it’s also an easy drinking ale in its own right.

It’s had outstanding feedback from customer review and taste tests, including people who usually don’t drink ale.”

The Head Sommelier and Wine Buyer at Benares, Jeepson Lopes, added: “Empress Ale is a great new addition to our drinks menu.

“It is a great match to the spice and flavours in the food we serve at Benares.”

However, Benares are not the only high-end restaurant who have recognised Surj’s talent.

He has gained a lot of interest from other restaurants whom he is currently in negotiations with.

Amongst these is another famous face, celebrity television chef and owner of well renowned Café Spice Namasté, Cyrus Todiwala.

“I am hand selecting quality retailers and restaurants which will reflect the premium nature of the ale”, he said.

“It will only be available in reputable establishments celebrated for their great food.”

For more information about Empress Ale, visit or email

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