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Butcombe bouyant: a new warehouse, kegging and bottling lines on the way and a microbrewery promised to facilitate experimentation

Butcombe moves towards regional brewer status

Butcombe Brewing Company will take another step towards its ambition of being a regional brewer over the coming months with a £4 million investment in a new distribution and packaging centre, a 40,000-barrel expansion of fermenting capacity and a craft brewing set-up.

At the end of November distribution and storage will transfer from the brewery at Wrington to a 50,000 square foot warehouse 20 miles south by the M5 motorway junction at Bridgewater, Somerset.

Kegging and bottling, currently farmed out to Fuller’s, will begin at the new site next May. Specs for packaging lines are being finalised and will include enough capacity to carry out contract work for other local beer and cider producers. A dozen jobs will be created.

“We have been bursting out the seams here,” said Mark Crowther, chief executive at Butcombe’s Channel Islands-based parent company Liberation Group. “Our keg beers are growing really strongly, and one of the benefits of the move is that it will free up space at the brewery for new fermenters.

“There’s a bottleneck at the moment with the new styles of beer we’re brewing taking up a lot of conditioning capacity, and we’ll be planning exactly what we need to do about that early next year.”

A ‘craft beer production unit’ is also promised. “We have a five-barrel plant on Jersey that gives us the flexibility for test brews, trials and charity beers, and we’re finalising our thoughts on what would be right for Butcombe.”

The whole project is being overseen by Steve Wilkinson, who joined the company as managing director of brewing and brands in October from Fuller’s – via US beer brand Route 66.

“The investment in specialist bottling and kegging equipment is a rare opportunity for a brewer of our size to really gear up and satisfy the rapidly changing market,” he said. “These improvements will ensure we retain and enhance our quality reputation while stepping up production to move closer to our long-term goal of becoming the number one regional brewer.”

Butcombe is enjoying double-digit growth for the keg range it rebranded earlier this year. It has also doubled the size of its pub estate over the past 12 months, most recently acquiring the eight houses that comprised S A Brain’s English pubs arm.

Crowther announced that another three pubs will be added to the 43-strong group before the end of 2017, “and we’re still doing a lot of free trade – Butcombe Original is now the second largest ale in the South West, after Sharp’s Doom Bar.”

Liberation’s Jersey-brewed beers are also being shipped across and Butcombe’s brews are performing well in the Channel Islands, he reported.

“We’re well on the way to becoming the regional brewer here,” he added. “I’ll be shooting and wearing tweeds soon!”

Phil Mellows
17th November 2017

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