Wine supplier expands into spirits, beers and ciders

hiver honey beer liberty winesA new craft honey beer has arrived in the UK on-trade as part of a new portfolio of artisan products from supplier Liberty Wines.

The smooth blonde Hiver beer is long-matured and unpasteurised, fermented and conditioned with three different honeys and made in West Sussex with a speciality organic malt to match the subtle flavours.

Other new additions to Liberty Wines portfolio include products from Blackdown Artisan Spirits, produced at the Lurgashall Winery in West Sussex. The range features Blackdown Sussex Dry Gin, using botanicals such as Sussex silver birch sap, and Sussex Blanco Vermouth.

Liberty Wines is also distributing Craigies Irish Cider from an independent cider maker in Co Wicklow. It makes single-vintage ciders using only Irish apples, sourced from dedicated growers in counties Waterford, Tipperary and Kilkenny. The Ballyhook Flyer is a blend of three different apple varieties and is their take on a Breton-style, dry cider.

Other beers joining the portfolio are A Head In A Hat from the Florence Brewery, headed by Peter Haydon, in south-east London. The beers include Gin Golden Ale, using spent botanicals from the City of London Distillery, and Tommy India Pale Ale, made to an original recipe from 1914.

Liberty Wines also handles Cronx beers from The Cronx Brewery which produces a standard well-balanced, traditional bitter and Kotchin blonde ale, brewed with Cascade hops to give a passion fruit and peach aroma.

The aim of extending the portfolio beyond wines is to expand Liberty Wines’ offering for customers as they look to source high-quality regional products from a single trusted distributor.

David Gleave, managing director at Liberty Wines, said: “This is an exciting evolution for our business. While our focus remains on providing award-winning wines, we have seen a growing interest among our customers in sourcing artisan products such as craft beer. Our aim is to enhance our customer offering for both the on- and off-trade.

“We apply the same buying philosophy when sourcing our cider, beers and spirits as we do for our wines and believe that these latest additions to our portfolio offer remarkable quality, individuality and value.”

blackdown sussex dry ginAll the new brands are produced in small quantities “with passion and local pride”, with the same attention to detail as the best wines, resulting in a demonstrable sense of place.

Sarah Thompson, who owns Blackdown Artisan Spirits with her husband Nathan, said: “Blackdown Artisan Spirits stands for quality, refinement, taste and affordability – values that we believe are important to our discerning customers. Liberty Wines was the perfect choice to work with as their values mirror our own so closely.”

Hiver honey beer was created by Hannah Rhodes, former sales and marketing manager for Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, east London, and, most recently, London sales manager for Frobishers Juices. It is produced at Hepworth Brewery in Horsham, West Sussex, and comes in 330ml bottles with an ABV of 5%.

After developing an interest in urban beekeeping, Hannah wanted a recipe that ensured the flavour of the honey, sourced from independent beekeepers, could shine through without being too sweet or cloying.

Ten per cent of profits are to be donated to pollinator charities and urban space development projects and the brand will focus on beekeeping imagery as it develops.

Hannah said: “The time is right for a brand-led, well distributed craft beer that taps into the urban food scene. As a non-hoppy beer, Hiver is a refreshing change from the heavily hopped craft beers of late and provides bartenders with an authentic craft beer, a unique story and flavour profile and a beer that’s accessible to more mainstream tastes.

“Through a series of focus groups, I took on board the potential concerns of operators and consumers and I hope that the end result meets the demands of both.

“Honey beer is a traditional British beer style that’s been somewhat forgotten about and I’d love to revive it through Hiver. I feel there’s an opportunity for a new category in craft with this beer style and I’m thrilled to bring Hiver to the market as the new and authentic face of honey beer.”

She said the initial response had been “fantastic” and that the beer was popular at the Meatopia food festival in London on September 7.

Hiver’s soft launch sees it available in 10 outlets across London with a number of tastings and events already planned after a tasting at The Hide Bar in Bermondsey Street.

Hannah intends to focus on independents and small multiples in the on-trade initially. Her longer term plans include a full trade launch and widespread consumer awareness campaign in early 2014. Two additional flavours are also planned.

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