A RENFREWSHIRE pub and brewery business has secured £720,000 expansion funding from HSBC and won a landmark contract with a supermarket chain as it prepares to capitalise on the growing demand for real ale.
The Houston Brewing Company, which runs the historic Fox and Hounds pub in the village of the same name, has clinched a deal to supply beer to Aldi.
The German discount supermarket chain has placed an order for 7000 bottles of Crystal beer, which Houston's managing director Andrew Anderson hopes will lead to more business. The deal provides the latest example of the way that Scottish microbrewers have grabbed the attention of retailers.
In December last year, Aldi had a Scottish beer festival which featured products from 27 operations drawn from the fast-expanding ranks of Scottish microbreweries.
The latest Good Beer Guide, published by the Campaign for Real Ale in September last year, lists 70 breweries in Scotland up from 57 in the preceding period.
The sales and funding deals provide an early boost for Mr Anderson and his business partner Stewart Robertson weeks after they bought the business for £1 million. A former Scottish sales manager for Irn Bru-maker AG Barr, Mr Anderson was a regular in the Fox and Hounds for years before buying the venue.
He said with demand outweighing supply of its beers the company is considering moving production to a bigger brewery.
"There's huge potential to grow the microbrewery," added Mr Anderson.
Under head brewer Carl Wengel, the Houston Brewing Company has won prizes for products such as its Peter's Well bitter.
Noting that many of the female customers in the Fox and Hounds drink real ale, Mr Anderson said: "People are becoming much more receptive to real ale. It's becoming very trendy among young people."
Houston Brewing Company sells around 60% of its annual production to pubs in Scotland and northern England. The rest is sold in the Fox and Hounds.
The supply deal with Aldi is its first with a retailer.
Mr Anderson hopes to use bottled ales to persuade more publicans to stock Houston's products, without having to buy more expensive casks or kegs of ale.
He said he also has his sights set on international markets in the longer term.
The company will also use some of the funding provided by HSBC to create a private dining area at the pub, which was founded in 1779.
This is frequented by big names in football, including the Rangers manager Ally McCoist, as well as pop stars such as Paolo Nutini.