Award winning brewer Ryan invests in big exports of his successful beers

Leading Northern Ireland brewer McCracken’s Real Ale is investing in doubling its production capacity of beers as part of a drive to grow export opportunities.

By Sam Butler
Monday, 2nd May 2022, 7:00 am

Leading Northern Ireland brewer McCracken’s Real Ale is investing in doubling its production capacity of beers as part of a drive to grow export opportunities.

The company, which is based in Portadown, is shortly taking delivery of two new brewing tanks which will enable it to push production of its seven-strong range of beers up to more than 14,000 litres from around the current level of 6,000 litres.

Ryan McCracken, who founded the craft brewery as a hobby in 2014 and has since seen it become a successful career, is also in process of extending the brewery premises to accommodate the new tanks and to provide essential storage space for growth in short and long terms. The ambitious business has received funding support from the Rural Business Development Grant Scheme towards the important expansion project.

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Ryan McCracken of McCracken’s Real Ales in Portadown is growing sales here and in Britain

“We are implementing a series of projects that will see a necessary increase in beer production and expansion in our marketing and distribution operations to meet the growing demand for our beers,” explains Ryan. “We’ve also seen our beers achieving tremendous success in the Great Taste and Blas na hEireann awards and increasing awareness overall of the quality and taste of our local products.”

Ryan’s beers have won gold stars in Great Taste awards for black Irish stout, Irish red ale and American pale ale and a bronze in Blas at Dingle for its black-Irish stout.

“Up until recently, we have been doing all our own distribution,” he continues. “With our increased capacity and our plans to further increase this it was time to partner with a local distributor. As a result, we are now working with Anzac Distributors in Ballycastle in Northern Ireland. Anzac is helping us to increase our foothold here.”

In addition, Ryan is planning on partnering up with an established distributor in the Republic of Ireland to grow sales there.

“Our partnership with our Italian distributor is going very well and we are broadening our reach in this developing market,” he says. “Our beers are now being enjoyed by beer lovers as far down as Rome and the surrounding areas.”

The small brewery recently received a boost for the quality and originality of its beers when the owners of The Plough Inn in Royal Hillsborough, collaborated with him in a new Royal Hillsborough Pale Ale, which is available on tap now and is regarded as a signature blend.

The new ale is part of the celebration of the village being awarded ‘Royal’ status by the Queen and an affectionate look back at The Plough’s history. The Plough in the mid nineteenth century, in fact, supplied local beers and ales to the Marquess of Downshire for grand banquets in Hillsborough Fort just behind the venue.

William Patterson, co-owner of The Plough, explains: “We have worked with Ryan and his team since 2018, so partnering with him on this project made sense. Micro-brewing in Northern Ireland is a growing market and customers today are willing and enthusiastic to try new products especially if it’s from a local source.

“We tried several samples of Ryan’s ales and we agreed to have an easy drinking light refreshing pale ale, not too strong in alcohol that would appeal to both male and female customers. It also needed to complement the great food we serve in The Plough and The Pheasant bars and restaurants.”

Ryan continues: “At McCrackens, we believe in using natural fresh ingredients. We source many of the ingredients locally to maintain the highest quality standards and ensure we contribute to our local economy.”

The investment is the latest undertaken by Ryan. He had invested in the small brewery before lockdown and continued to keep the operation alive through off-sales and on-line business particularly in Britain during the pandemic.

He continues: “Times have been really tough for craft breweries with limited resources during the lockdowns. It came as we were exploring business in Britain and were developing our network of hospitality customers across Northern Ireland.

“Everything was looking good for our beers. Lockdown hit the sector really hard. Fortunately, we are still growing strongly and gaining new outlets here and further afield.”

Ryan, an experienced IT manager, set up the brewery in a specially converted building at the home he shares with wife Nicola and family. He began brewing as a hobby in 2014 when Nicola gave him a home brew kit as a Christmas present! The brewery has a seven-strong range of bottle-conditioned ales and also supplies ale in cask and keg form. He has extended the range of hand crafted beers in the brewery with his four-strong team to include an American Pale Ale and a German Hefeweizen.