The growing love for craft beer around the world is paying dividends for a Lisburn company which is expanding its brewery and taking on more staff.
Hilden Brewery, the oldest independent brewer in the island of Ireland, plans to increase its brewing capacity to 14,000 litres from 7,000 litres, after a rebrand and a rise in demand in the last few months.
It will install new tanks for its existing brewery and also an automated bottling machine in the adjacent building to the brewery.
The expansion will create three new jobs and helped the company open up its range of beers to a global market.
Hilden said it will start to export its ales and lagers to Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the Baltics later this year and has also signed up a disritbutor in British Columbia in Canada.
It has ambitious plans to tap in to export markets of China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand where it hopes to find an eager market for its Scullions, Hilden Halt, Barney's Brew and Twisted Hop.
The company said it's especially proud of the latter tipple which only last year took the top prize at the inaugural Dublin Craft Beer Cup, beating off stiff competition from 130 other beers.
The firm's expansion was welcomed by Alliance MLA Judith Cochrane chair of the Small Business Group at Stormont.
"Events like today help to showcase our successful local businesses but we need to do much more to champion them and inspire others to establish and grow in Northern Ireland," she said.
"I established the All Party Group on SMEs with a clear aim of assisting and developing our small and medium businesses to reach their full potential. Hilden Brewery is a great example of how a business can add value to grow and evolve."
Hilden Brewery was established in 1981 in Hilden House in Lisburn and is run by Seamus and Ann Scullion together with their son Owen Scullion, brewery manager, and daughter Frances Maguire who is general manager.
The announcement was made at the Lisburn premises by Seamus and Owen Scullion at an event attended by Lisburn Mayor Councillor Margaret Tollerton, Alastair Ross MLA and councillor Conor McGreevy, chair of Economic Development, Newry and Mourne Council.
* Started trading in 1981
* 1984 The first Hilden Beer and Music Festival was held
* 1996 The Tap Room Restaurant opened
* 2005 Hilden Brewery Extension
* 2006 Molly's Yard restaurant opened
* 2012 The Hilden Brewing Company rebrands
* 2013 Application for funding to open a bottling plant
* 2014 Opening Northern Ireland's first automated bottling plant
Family's success story just gets better and better with every drop
The Hilden Brewing Company is a partnership business which was founded in 1981 by Seamus and Ann Scullion.
The business is located in the listed buildings of Hilden House on the outskirts of Lisburn.
It claims to have led the way in reintroducing locally-brewed Irish beers and is Ireland's oldest independent brewery.
In 2005, Seamus and Ann's son Owen joined the business following his masters degree in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt University.
Owen quickly became the head brewer/brewery manager and has led the brewery through its most significant period of growth.
The Scullion family opened The Tap Room Restaurant in 1996 in the building adjacent to the brewery and opened a second restaurant Molly's Yard in Belfast in 2005.
Hilden Brewery also stages an annual beer and music festival to promote the brewery and to increase brand awareness.
It also attend other festivals such as The National Trust's Gig in the Garden and the Annual Bluegrass Festival at The Ulster American Folk Park.
In early 2013, Owen Scullion recognised that the brewery – with a capacity of 7,000 litres –was not sufficient and identified a need for additional brewing capacity and an automated bottling plant.
The bottling plant could not be housed in the existing premises so the company looked to a second building on the same site which had recently been vacated by another local business.
In 2014, Owen plans to purchase and renovate the building to contain a bottling hall, state of the art offices for the increased number of full-time administration, finance, marketing and sales staff, a gift shop for the brewery and also a tasting hall which will be used for beer tasting following a brewery tour.
The new building will also boast a modern, spacious conference room which will be used both internally and externally as a space for conferences, meetings and team-building exercises.