A major US craft beer chain could be set to open up shop in Belfast – with the prospect of dozens of jobs being created in the process.
California-based Karl Strauss Brewing Company is eyeing up a location in the east of the city, and has already predicted a new £1.7m opening could bring up to 100 jobs.
The firm says a proposed 'brewpub' would include a restaurant, as well as the possibility for an on-site brewery. The potentially lucrative addition to Northern Ireland's burgeoning brewing and food scene was initiated by Maurice Kinkead, chief executive of the East Belfast Partnership.
"I'm heading over for a meeting next month with the owners," he said. "It would be a great opportunity – bringing something international like a brewpub. It would certainly help make this city a more interesting place."
San Diego-owned and operated, Karl Strauss boasts eight locations across California, serving a wide selection of its own artisan beers alongside an eclectic food menu.
The idea for the new outlet – which would be the company's first outside the US – came about after Mr Kinkead met with a business friend to discuss the possibility of adding some internationally renowned producers to Northern Ireland's homegrown brewing scene.
"Karl Strauss does the brewing thing in a restaurant setting – linking beer with food," he said.
"It's something, I think, that could really work for us in Belfast.
"I am going over to the US in June to meet them. We will get a good insight into how the brewery works."
Although still in the early stages of negotiation, the brewery's co-founder Matt Rattner said he was excited at the prospect of a "partnership".
He said the craft beer movement in the US had "international aplomb these days".
"We are passionate about our beers and we won't enter into anything lightly," he said.
The crop of small, independent breweries here has more than tripled in a decade, with at least six new operations opening in just a handful of years.
But while Ulster boasts a range of independently-owned craft breweries, it has yet to tap into the brewpub restaurant market, where beer is normally produced on the premises.