Sonnet 43 Brew House targets £10m turnover after first year's success

County Durham microbrewery and leisure firm, Sonnet 43 Brew House,  has unveiled plans to more than double its workforce and take turnover to £10m within five years

Mark Hird, founder of Sonnet 43
Mark Hird, founder of Sonnet 43

The founder of a microbrewery and leisure firm has unveiled plans to more than double his workforce and take turnover to £10m within five years after toasting a successful first year in business.

Since opening in late 2012 Sonnet 43 Brew House, at Coxhoe, County Durham, has produced 1,500 barrels of craft beer, as well as thousands of bottles for sale in pubs around the UK and online.

Sonnet 43’s founder, restaurateur Mark Hird, has also opened three brewery taps – The Lambton Worm, Chester le Street, The White Lead, Hebburn and The Clarence Villa, Coxhoe – which serve Sonnet 43 beers as well as food and drinks.

Demand has far outstripped expectations, prompting Sonnet 43 boss Hird to plan expansions of the microbrewery and brewery tap business as part of a five-year plan which will see the portfolio grow to 12 brewery taps.

In the short term, he aims to expand the Brew House at Coxhoe, increasing brewing capacity and introducing craft kegging within a sizeable extension that will also be able to play host to a visitor centre, offering workshops and tours.

The plans will take the workforce from the current 250 employed by the Sonnet 43 businesses and Hird’s other interest Tavistock Leisure, to 526 – with 270 new jobs created at nine new brewery taps and six at the microbrewery.

He said: “It has been a landmark first year for Sonnet 43 and we’re delighted that our beers have been well received by publicans and their customers. It really has exceeded all our expectations. We have big plans for 2014, including the launch of more brewery taps and the expansion of the brewery itself.

“It has always been my intention to open my own brewery tap and in the last year we’ve opened three, and it’s my five-year plan to build up 10 to 12 in all.

“Each new one creates 30 full and part-time jobs, so we’re looking at creating another 270 jobs if we open nine more, and I think we’ll do that within three years.

“From a standing start the brewery has made first-year turnover of £286,00 but just on the brewing side I think we’ll have turnover of £780,000 in five years, and all told I think the business turnover will be about £10m.”

Hird has been particularly passionate about craft beers for some time, so put himself through a brewing course at Sunderland’s Beer Lab before setting up Sonnet 43, part of his dream to run a microbrewery and open a brewery tap.

Now his firm’s core beers – including Steam Beer, India Pale Ale, Brown Ale and Bourbon Milk Stout – are sold in more than 200 pubs across the North East and North Yorkshire. The brewery expansion will enable the firm to export beers further around the UK, including into the lucrative London market.

Hird said: “The brewing side has really taken us by surprise. We are struggling to keep up with demand which is a wonderful problem to have, so I’m putting together funding bids to invest in the brewery. We want to build a steel frame extension which we’ll move the brewery plant into and it will also house a visitor centre for budding brewers.

“It’s also been very uneconomical to send all the brews away to Cumbria to be bottled, so another angle would be to have bottling machines on site.

He added: “We want our beers to cover the UK and there has been a huge surge in craft beers in London. We’ve only just scratched the surface there, so that could be huge for us.”

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