Brewery taps into gin market after seeking new use for excess beer

Nethergate Brewery in Long Melford, pictured before the pandemic, is toasting a LEP grant to enable

Nethergate Brewery in Long Melford, pictured before the pandemic, is toasting a LEP grant to enable it to set up a distillery Picture: GOOGLEMAPS - Credit: Archant

A brewery is set to use its unsold beer to make gin and whisky — thanks to a £50k grant.

Nethergate Brewery in Long Melford is distilling beer into gin and whisky to stop it going to waste

Nethergate Brewery in Long Melford is distilling beer into gin and whisky to stop it going to waste Picture: NETHERGATE BREWERY - Credit: Archant

Nethergate Brewery in Long Melford, near Sudbury, was able to diversify during the coronavirus pandemic with the help of funding from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme.

The £3.5m fund was set up by the LEP following the Covid outbreak to provide grants to support short-term business resilience schemes and longer-term recovery and diversification projects.

MORE — Public flocks to pubs and restaurants ahead of lockdownIt means the Suffolk brewery will be distilling excess beer — made using water drawn from a nearby ancient meadow — to produce its new lines of spirits as well as its own brand of mineral water.

Nethergate’s managing director John Holberry said the grant had been “enormously helpful”.

Nethergate Brewery has received a LEP grant to help it distil beer into gin and whisky to stop it g

Nethergate Brewery has received a LEP grant to help it distil beer into gin and whisky to stop it going to waste Picture: NETHERGATE BREWERY - Credit: Archant

“We would not have been able to do what we have done without that support,” he said.

“If you assume alcohol is going to continue to be drunk, we need to be more of a take-home oriented business. We will need pubs, but we have an online shop and an actual shop.

“By creating gin and whisky, and rum we hope, we will be less dependent on pub sales and much more able to provide a range of products for locals.”

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The brewery applied for the grant to help pay for the purchase and commission of a still and other distillery equipment, and the design and branding of its gin products. Although coronavirus has hit the firm’s bottom line, it has brought forward plans to diversify its products and grow the capacity of its visitor centre to increase direct sales as part of the tour experience.

Nethergate Brewery in Long Melford, pictured before the pandemic, is set to diversify into distillin

Nethergate Brewery in Long Melford, pictured before the pandemic, is set to diversify into distilling spirits Picture: GOOGLEMAPS - Credit: Archant

“Most people nowadays buy ethanol and then distil that and put the botanicals in to create the gin. But we thought there are lots of people drinking gin, so we will distil from grain,” said Mr Holberry.

“We’re also putting a bore hole in an ancient water meadow and will use our own water and grain to make our own gin. So, we’re going right back to our origins.”

Gin sales in the UK passed the £2bn mark for the first time last year and the market is a crowded one. But Mr Holberry believes Nethergate’s 1,000-strong paying membership, as well as its tap house and shop, will give it a ready-made customer base for its new product lines.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, said the diversification was a prime example of the kind of project the scheme was designed to support and urged businesses to find out if they were eligible.

“I would encourage any business which is reviewing its processes, considering investing in new equipment or which needs support in the light of the pandemic to speak to one of our business advisers at the New Anglia Growth Hub,” he said.

To find out more about the Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme, go to https://newanglia.co.uk/grant/business-resilience-and-recovery-scheme/