US firm's Norbrook brewery takeover a boost for Newry
A Newry brewery owned by the family of late Norbrook tycoon Lord Ballyedmond is hoping to benefit from a buyover from a US-based craft beer company.
Animal nutrition firm Alltech paid an undisclosed sum for Cumberland Breweries, which has two sites, including the Station Works in Newry.
The properties will be the latest addition to Alltech's brewing portfolio. The company, which produces two ales, a whiskey and a bourbon, was founded by Dundalk man Dr Pearse Lyons, whose first job was with Harp Lager, just a few miles across the border from Station Works.
Dr Lyons said: "This is a kind of homecoming for me, as well as a big moment for our beverage side of the company and for craft brewing in Britain and Ireland.
"These acquisitions will allow our new brands, Finn Irish Craft Lager, and Foxes Rock, brewed here in Ireland, to reach their full potential in the United States."
The acquisition is the first step in Alltech's move into the European market, and while Station Works will benefit from new expertise, the acquisition is also a boon for the US business.
Conor Farrell, Alltech's European sales manager, said: "This was a chance to expand and invest in the European market.
"It's the perfect platform to access the distribution model and contacts already in place for the Cumberland Breweries brand."
Twelve people are currently employed at Station Works, and while there are no plans to recruit more staff, Mr Farrell said the jobs there are secure.
Plans to thrust Finn Irish Craft Lager and Foxes Rock into supermarkets and bars across Northern Ireland are still on the cards.
"Nothing will change in terms of plans for building the current business," said Mr Farrell. "We will be supplementing the existing products by providing Irish, Northern Irish and American beers to customers, so there's a greater choice."
Mr Farrell said the buyover has sparked enthusiasm among staff in Newry: "As craft brewers we are all very excited about this opportunity to develop both ranges of beers. It's not just Station Works, this move brings great excitement for all craft businesses in Northern Ireland."
News of a big investment in the city has also been welcomed by the Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade. Chief executive Orla Jackson said: "We are delighted Alltech has chosen to invest in Newry. Norbrook has done a fantastic job establishing the brewery and we hope to see further business growth under the new owner."
Norbrook's decision to sell means the company is now focusing on its core business within the animal health industry.
A spokeswoman said: "We are delighted the company will continue as a trading business under its new ownership, as a key player in the craft brewing industry.
"We will be working closely with the new owners and staff to ensure business continuity throughout the transition process."