07/12/2006

Kilkeel brewing company bottles up business

Kilkeel-based Whitewater Brewing Company has invested over £250,000 to expand sales of its real ale products in target markets including Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

The company, which is being assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to increase marketing expertise, is launching bottled versions of its established and successful ales which have been supplied in casks and kegs to bars in many parts of Northern Ireland and have been sold at beer festivals throughout Great Britain for many years.

Whitewater, located in the foothills of the Mournes, has already secured significant contracts from Sainsbury and Asda to supply its stores throughout Northern Ireland with its distinctively flavoured Clotworthy Dobbin and Belfast Ale bottled products.

Bernard Sloan, an engineer, who formed the company in 1996 with wife Kerry, said: "We've decided to introduce bottled real ale because of the strength of demand for the beers. Over the past two years sales have grown by 30 per cent and we've many approaches from both existing and potential customers asking us to provide bottled products.

"The new plant gives us the capacity to produce up to 1,000 bottles every hour and the capability to expand our business through our distribution channels including supermarket chains."

He added: "We've also had approaches from leading hotels in the Dublin area. From our experience at beer festivals in Great Britain we know that there is a market there for our beers. Servicing it by casks and kegs wasn't particularly cost-effective for us. Over the next few years the bottled beers will enable us to develop opportunities in Great Britain and the Republic, where demand for handcrafted ales with real flavour is growing significantly."

Mark Bleakney, Manager of Invest NI's Southern Regional Office, commented on Whitewater Brewing's expansion, continued: "This investment together with the contracts from Sainsbury and Asda, move this specialist brewery business onto a new level with greater opportunities for growth. As one of the most successful niche breweries in Ireland, Whitewater has an excellent reputation for quality."

The company currently employs three people in the Kilkeel brewery and has also become a popular attraction for visitors to the Mournes.

It will, in addition, be showing its ales at the forthcoming International Food Exhibition in London on an Invest NI stand.

(EF)

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