Channel Islands bar and pub operator buys Somerset brewer

Laska Guernsey

The Liberation Group, a leading operator of bars, pubs and restaurants in the Channel Islands, has announced today that it has acquired Somerset’s Butcombe Brewery.

The combined business will now have 94 pubs, bars and restaurants, two breweries making over 30,000 barrels of beer and retail and wholesale operations employing more than 750 people.

Along with stronger buying power, the deal will enable the Liberation Group to sell Butcombe beers in the Channel Islands while exporting Liberation ales on draught and in bottles into UK pub groups and supermarkets where Butcombe is already distributed.

The Liberation Group was formed in 2008 after a management buyout backed by Legal & General Capital, through LGV Capital supporting a management team led by Mark Crowther. It has grown to 75 predominantly freehold pubs and bars, the Liberation Brewery and two retail and wholesale drinks supply businesses.

Its Jersey sites include The Old Court House in St Aubin and The Bar & Canteen and The Town House in St Helier, while on Guernsey its bars and restaurants include Dix Neuf, Red Onion, The Crow’s Nest and Laska (pictured) in St Peter Port.

Butcombe Brewery was founded in 1978 and has 19 managed pubs, with distribution of its beers – including Butcombe Bitter and Butcombe Gold – in Somerset, Bristol, Bath, the Mendips and the Cotswolds. It also produces Ashton Press ciders through its wholly owned subsidiary, the Long Ashton Cider Company.

Mark said: “We have been looking for some time for the right UK business to acquire as part of our longer-term growth strategy. This marks the start of the exciting next chapter for Liberation and Butcombe, both of whom share the same passion for quality beers and great pubs.

“The enlarged group provides the perfect bridge-head platform for further future growth in the UK market. We are really looking forward to welcoming the Butcombe team into the Liberation Group.”

Guy Newell, managing director of Butcombe Brewery, said: “We have had significant interest from several UK pub and drinks businesses, but for us Liberation Group was by far the best fit with our business.

“They share our ethos for high-quality products and service and have proved, as we have, that being independent does not necessarily prevent you from being recognised for excellence alongside some of the biggest global names in the industry. This is a new chapter for both businesses and all of the team here is looking forward to being a part of that.”

The Liberation Group intends to invest in Butcombe Brewery’s existing pubs, seeking brand consistency across the group and plans to refresh the food offering with further local produce and recipes.

Expansion is planned to build a portfolio of food-led managed and high-quality tenanted pubs while continuing the growth and development of the Butcombe beer and cider range.

Steven Phillips, director at LGV Capital, added: “This is an exciting development for Liberation and Butcombe and we are delighted to support a first-class management team to continue the development and growth of the Group.”

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