Microbrewer toasts success in Republic of Ireland

Waringstown-based Clanconnel Brewing Company (Clanconnel) has won its first export business with help from Invest Northern Ireland.

The artisan brewery has agreed a distribution deal with CWI Drinks in Dublin which has led to its beer and stout brands being sold in gastropubs, bars and restaurants in key regional centres including Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Clanconnel, which recently gained the Champion Beer Award for its latest handcrafted beer, McGrath’s Irish Black Stout, at the Belfast Beer Festival ahead of 80 beers and ales from across the UK, has received assistance from Invest NI including an Innovation Voucher.

The breakthrough deal in the Republic of Ireland was announced by Mark Pearson, Clanconnel’s Managing Director and founder of the artisan brewing business, and welcomed by Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Division Director.

Mr Pearson said: “Moving into exports was a key objective when I set up the business in 2008. We launched Weaver’s Gold, our first product in early 2009 and this has been closely followed up with McGrath’s Irish Red and McGrath’s Irish Black.

“Invest NI’s Innovation Voucher scheme enabled me to access expert advice and very practical support from staff at Loughry College, part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, in developing the beer for export to markets particularly the US.

“Winning business in the Republic is an important step towards my objective of achieving US market success, which I aim to achieve during 2011.  Feedback from customers there has been extremely positive and has encouraged me to bring forward my plans for the US.

“Launching in the New York and Boston area around St Patrick’s Day would be ideal. There’s a great tradition of brewing and a strong heritage in the Lurgan area that should appeal particularly to an Irish American audience. Our products are all handcrafted, natural and free from additives.

“Achieving the Champion Beer Award at the Belfast Beer Festival was a tremendous boost that is certainly helping the company to build sales in Ireland. It will also be a useful quality endorsement in my discussions with potential distributors in the US. In addition, the company is now able to offer a portfolio of beers and ales that are well established in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“Invest NI’s very practical support and encouragement has been immensely beneficial. This assistance has helped me to move into exporting faster than would have been possible if I had had to depend entirely on my own resources,” added Mr Pearson.

Mr Mawhinney said: “Clanconnel’s progress in such a short period is impressive and in line with our strategic priority of encouraging and assisting smaller food and drink processors to develop business opportunities outside Northern Ireland.

“Clanconnel was established as an export-focused business and has now achieved an important breakthrough in the Republic of Ireland that should provide the confidence and resources to enable this small but progressive business to move into other international markets over the next few years.

“It should be able to benefit from the reputation it has developed for quality and natural ales and beers in markets such as the US, Great Britain and RoI where there is a growing demand for artisan products with a strong heritage,” he added.