Four micro breweries are raising their glasses to a prosperous New Year after securing funding to expand their business - bolstering Shropshire’s reputation as one of the most popular places in the country for real ale.
The Ludlow Brewing Company, in Ludlow, established by husband and wife partnership Gary and Alison Walters, has received a grant of £62,500 to help build a 20 barrel brewing plant in a redundant railway shed.
The Six Bells Brewery in Bishops Castle has received a grant of £53,000 to help treble its brewing capacity, replacing the existing eight-hectolitre brew plant with a new 25-hectolitre model using the latest energy saving technology.
The Clun Brewery, in Clun, is a new micro business started up by business partners Jack Limond and Matthew Williamson. A grant of £8,000 is helping them install a 2.5 barrel micro brewery at the rear of the White Horse Inn, owned and managed by Mr Limond since 2001.
The Three Tuns Brewery in Bishops Castle – which has been brewing on site since 1642 – is improving its brewing process by installing a 24-barrel cold liquor storage vessel and new internal cooling radiator, supported by a grant for a total of £9,000. The four businesses applied successfully for European funding assistance from the Rural Enterprise Grant (REG) programme, a core element of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) which is managed by Advantage West Midlands and administered by Herefordshire Council.
Neville Richards, proprietor of the Six Bells, said: “I made my first brew in 1997 and I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve been in this business. I’m now running at 95 per cent capacity and the time has come to expand and the grant is helping to make that happen.
“Shropshire is quenching the thirst of thousands of real ale drinkers - and one of our strengths as brewers is the friendly rivalry that exists between us. This is a market that’s so interesting and full of variety, there’s room for us all.”
Jack Limond, of the Clun Brewery, said: “The real ale industry is enjoying a boom at the moment. Customers want locally produced food and drink - and that means beers with flavour, made from pure and natural ingredients.
“We’ve been brewing on a small scale for a couple of years. A couple of the brews were consumed within a day and attracted favourable comments from customers - so we decided it was time to start up our own micro brewery.”
Gary Walters, of the Clun Brewing Company, said: “The grant has enabled us to take a major step forward in growing the business. We’re producing four beers - Ludlow Gold, The Boiling Well, Ludlow Best and Black Knight - but sales have grown above expectations and the time was right to invest in new premises and brewing equipment.”
Bill Bainbridge, head brewer and a director of the Three Tuns Brewery, said: “These are the oldest working brewery premises in Britain. The site has been fully refurbished over the past seven years – but we are always looking at ways to improve the brewing process.
“These are tough times for the brewery industry but independent brewers like us are carving out a place in the market for beer with taste and quality.”
Mark Foley, director of European programmes at Advantage West Midlands, said: “The food and drink sector is a vital part of the rural economy in the West Midlands and I am delighted that the Rural Enterprise Grant Programme is playing an instrumental role in boosting Shropshire’s thriving micro brewery industry.”
Rural Enterprise Grants are available for famers and micro businesses developing and diversifying into food and drink, environmental technologies and tourism improvements in the West Midlands region.
Funding of up to 40 per cent – or £62,500 – can be secured towards projects that range from new processing machinery and supply chain equipment and improvements, to tourism experiences.