How investment is helping to boost revenue for Black Sheep Brewery

Black Sheep Brewery boosted its revenues for the second year in a row despite a challenging year for the brewing industry.

Black Sheep Brewery - Masham

The North Yorkshire brewery hailed one of its “most transformative business periods” in its history in which it increased turnover to £19.3m from £18.5m the year prior.

Profits dipped slightly to £254,000 from £260,000 but represented the second year in succession that the Masham-based business has been in the black.

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In the year to March 31 Black Sheep established a dedicated retail division and continued its investment programme in a state-of-the-art packaging facility, alongside developing its established and new beer and lager range.

Jonathan and Rob Theakston

The year also saw Black Sheep acquire York Brewery, with its brand and four of its outlets in York and Leeds being fully integrated into the Black Sheep business.

It also acquired Leeds-based bar and restaurant Kith & Kin to expand the portfolio of pubs.

Kith & Kin is now part of Black Sheep’s newly created retail division, Black Sheep Retail, which now has five pubs in its portfolio.

It also enjoyed a strong year of accolades, winning a range of industry awards, including the National Independent Beer Awards and the World Beer Awards for both its new beers and also some of the established core range.

Black Sheep ales

Tough market

However management said that the industry it operated within remained a challenging one with beer duty soaking up 40 per cent of its turnover, something its chairman Andy Slee described as “suffocating”.

Mr Slee said: “Our diversification into pub ownership and to develop packaging capabilities to supplement our core brewing activity is proving to be a positive strategy.

“Brewing continues to be a challenging industry in which to operate, which is exemplified by the suffocating levels of beer duty we pay, accounting for 40 per cent of our turnover.

Black Sheep's foudner, Paul Theakston

“However, we remain agile and proactive through the development of new products and programmes of investment that will enable the brewery to continue to move forward.

“Working with our loyal shareholders and pursuing new routes to fundraising for the business, we are committed to the fast pace of change we are delivering at Black Sheep Brewery that will ensure we bolster our position as an iconic Yorkshire brand and innovative and creative brewer.”

Changing industry

Black Sheep has altered its range considerably in recent years, moving into the production of a variety of lagers and craft beers, something which would have been unthinkable when the brewery was founded in the early 1990s.

Of its current range of beers, some 15 per cent were not in production two years ago.

The development of its retail arm, coupled with developments in its leadership team, including the appointment of Simon Adams as group finance director, who brings private equity and AIM-listed experience to the group. The brewery also strengthened by its partnerships with major retailers, including securing listings for a number of its beers with supermarkets including Morrisons and Tesco.

Black Sheep was founded by Paul Theakston in 1992. His sons Rob and Jonathan run the firm today.