Artisan brewer tastes success in world's top beers

Ale from an artisan brewery in Kilkeel, Co Down has been ranked as one of the world’s top 50 beers.

Whitewater Brewing Company, located in the foothills of the Mournes at Kilkeel, was listed by a high-powered judging panel in the prestigious International Beer Challenge 2007. The brewery has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland’s Southern Regional Office in Newry and the agency’s Food Division in Belfast to develop its operations and marketing.

Clotworthy Dobbin Ale, the brewery’s main product, captured the attention of the expert judges including beer critics, current and former brewers, buyers and retailers under the chairmanship of renowned beer writer Jeff Evans. The challenge discovers and rewards the finest beers from across the globe and, in association with Off Licence News, publishes the list of the 'World's 50 Best Beers'.

Whitewater’s distinctively rich flavoured real ale came out ahead of a host of international entries in terms of taste and packaging. It will be in the running for the International Beer Challenge’s Supreme Champion award to be announced in London on 3 October.

Expert brewer Bernard Sloan, who formed Whitewater Brewing Company in 1996 with his wife Kerry, says: “Gaining a listing as one of the world’s top 50 beers is a marvellous endorsement of the quality of our Clotworthy Dobbin Ale. We set out to produce an ale that was different, that offered a fresh, crisp taste and we’ve succeeded by using only the best quality ingredients and traditional brewing techniques.

“The recent awards will be immensely important as we step up our marketing throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland especially for our bottled ales,” he adds. Among the brewery’s customers are major retail multiples including Sainsbury, Asda and the Co-Op, as well as many leading bars.

Sales have grown by over 30 per cent during the past year. The brewery has also invested heavily in the latest bottling technology, which has been backed by Invest NI, to develop the capacity to produce up to 1,000 bottles an hour. The brewery’s Belfast Ale also recently gained a gold award in the UK Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste Awards.

“The growth in demand for our products has led to the plant operating at full capacity and we are looking at on-site expansion options,” Mr Sloan adds.

Welcoming Whitewater’s achievements, Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Director of Food, says: “This is a tremendous accolade for the small brewery and shows that by focusing on quality and taste even the smallest Northern Ireland company can compete successfully with much bigger and longer established enterprises in the UK and from further afield.

“Our expert marketing advisors in Great Britain and the Republic are working closely with the company to help it maximise the business potential of the International Beer Challenge endorsement and Great Taste Award,” he adds.

Whitewater’s ales use natural ingredients such as hops from the Czech Republic, Australia and New Zealand and malt from England, the Republic of Ireland and Germany. The company employs three people.