Jarrow Brewery eyes growing American beer market

Jarrow Brewery has marked a heady first year in its new base - and now has its sights set on US customers

Mikaela Finnigan, head brewer at Jarrow Brewery
Mikaela Finnigan, head brewer at Jarrow Brewery

The North East’s largest small brewery firm is set to target the growing American real ale market following a heady first year in its new premises.

Jarrow Brewery was originally established in 2002 when publicans and real ale enthusiasts Jess and Alison McConnell started brewing at The Robin Hood Public House in Jarrow, South Tyneside.

The brands – inspired by symbolic tradesmen from Tyneside’s history and shipyards – soon became popular with drinkers across the region, leading to a number of local and national awards.

Increasing sales and demands saw the firm, which employs 12 people, outgrow the Robin Hood pub’s capacity, prompting the move of the brewing business to the Maltings Brewery Tap in South Shields in 2008, which remains the testing brewery.

In late 2013, funding worth more than £220,000 – £80,000 from Reward Capital and £140,000 through the Government-backed Regional Growth Fund, as well as private funding – triggered big expansion plans into a 5,000sqft, 40-barrel plant on the Bede Industrial Estate.

The impressive facility has given the firm the capacity to produce 72,000 pints a week – five times more than the brewery had been able to manufacture previously.

After commissioning the new site in November 2013, the brewery was active from April 2014 – and the firm’s eight core brands and seasonal brands have sparked significant sales growth, putting projected turnover for the year ended March 2015 at around £1.5m.

Now, having marked a strong year making distribution gains in the North East heartland trading area as well as significant gains made nationally with wholesalers, national breweries and pub companies, Jarrow Brewery is looking to the US as a potentially lucrative market.

Other future plans include commissioning a kegging line early next year, as well as putting together a share issue in early 2015 to raise further expansion money.

Mike Berriman, sales and marketing manager, said: “Technically we are now the largest small brewery in the North East and our brands are sold to local accounts such as Ladhar leisure, Sir John Fitzgerald and Wear Inns.

“We also sell to national pub companies, such as Punch Taverns and into all major chains through wholesalers, and we’ve made great gains, locally and nationally, in our first year at the new brewery.

“So our aspirations in terms of the company is that the North East is our heartland trading area and by far the most important market for us.

“Outside of that our plans are to sell into the national market place and then to look at export markets.

“The founder Jess is in the UKTI passport export scheme and I’m very keen to export, to countries including Ireland and the States.

“Some 70% of all British beer exported goes to the US but it can be difficult because there are 50 different states – effectively 50 different countries – so you have to pick an area and concentrate on it.

“We’ll look at the Eastern seaboard because there are a lot of ex-pats who are real ale drinkers there, and there’s a very strong import market there.

“There is real potential for us to increase our sales and our workforce significantly over the next three to five years.”

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