A Birmingham brewery is expanding into the bar trade to enable it to test out its products before launching to the market.
ABC Brewery, based in Aston, launched its first bar in Lichfield and now plans to open a second venue in Birmingham city centre serving up to 25 real ales.
The expansion comes as the company, which is running at full capacity – brewing and bottling 5,000 units each week ahead of Christmas demand, has landed a deal to supply its products in Asda supermarkets across the Midlands.
Head of operations Paul Tomalin said: “We have had the brewery for two years and we really wanted to open a bar to showcase our real ales in a bar setting.
“The opportunity came along to move into Lichfield and about 12 weeks ago we opened Malt – a specialist real ale bar and restaurant which has been really well received.
“The bar enables us to see what our consumers think about our ales. Then we can decide whether to bring them to the market.
“We chose the site because of the location near to the shops and theatre and its excellent transport links. A lot of commuters arriving back into Lichfield from work in Birmingham stop off for a drink on the way home and we have also become a popular venue with a variety of age groups on a Friday and Saturday.
“We offer home-cooked food using local produce which complements the ales on sale.
“Now we are planning to open a bar in Birmingham city centre and have narrowed it down to two venues. We think its important that people get the opportunity to try out not only our ales but a range of ales from micro breweries.”
The brewery, based in Birch Road, Aston, was initially set up with a £50,000 investment as Aston Brewery Company but due to the similarity in name with independent cider maker Aston Manor Brewery – a company belonging to Doug Ellis’s son Peter - the name was changed.
It has now established itself locally and was one of the main sponsors of the Birmingham Beer Festival.
The company started off with locally named ales such as Aston Dark and Pride of Aston – which have led to an expansion in the range, some of which are now available in major supermarkets.
Mr Tomalin said: “We have been working to get our ales into supermarkets and now it is starting to happen. We supply Asda stores in the Midlands and we are in advanced negotiations to supply other large supermarkets, which is fantastic. We already supply a lot of independent stores and off licences in the region.
Five of ABC’s real ales are being sold in eight Asda stores priced at £1.76 a bottle. They include Heartlands Bitter, Aston Mild, Dizzy Blonde, Rotunda Red and Sporting Gold, which vary from 3.6 per cent to 4.8 per cent in strength.
Andy Ward, branch contact and secretary for CAMRA in Birmingham said: “We are all for it off course. Variety is the spice of life – there are so many beers and ales.
"ABC produces a variety of ales varying in strength and many of the products are named after local landmarks. It is important to test the products on consumers.
“The ales market is thriving. Although we are still seeing pubs close in Birmingham demand for beers and ales remains high and we are seeing success stories.”
The Cask Report 2010-11 said that despite declining total beer sales and continuing pub closures, cask ale outperformed the beer market, increasing its share of beer sold in pubs and clubs for the third successive year while gaining 100,000 new drinkers.
Cask beer increased five per cent by value in 2009 to £1.4 billion, against a two per cent decline in the total UK beer market.