Brick Brewery - Hero Product 1

Production of Brick Brewery’s beers has been moved to Black Sheep in Yorkshire

Private investment group Breal is planning to acquire more breweries as it seeks to grow annual revenues from its beer operations almost fourfold to £100m by 2028.

Speaking to The Grocer, the CEO of Breal’s brewing operations Mark Williams said the business was far from finished on an acquisition spree that saw it acquire four breweries out of administration in 2023.

Williams said 75% of Breal’s growth in beer would “come from acquisitions initially”. The remainder, he said, would be from expanding those newly acquired businesses, as well as its existing portfolio of Black Sheep Brewery, Purity Brewing Co, Brick Brewery and Brew By Numbers.

“Our ideal endgame here is to have a portfolio which appeals regionally across the country,” he said. “We have a list of target breweries – most of them solvent on the face of it – that we will be in discussions with over the next two to three years.”

What breweries is Breal looking to buy?

Acknowledging the perilous state of the sector, Williams revealed Breal had held discussions with least eight breweries that were “on the verge of some kind of extinction event” since Christmas.

“We have an internal capacity for acquisitions but at the rate breweries are presenting themselves [to us] currently, we could buy a brewery a week and still there will be people falling by the wayside,” he said.

Williams denied, however, that the group was interested in Suffolk brewery Adnams, which earlier this month revealed it was seeking additional funding to secure its future.

“We already are in a turnaround process of a similar business [in Black Sheep],” he said. “So do we need another one like we already have?”

He added: “I don’t know where they’re going or what their plans are. We’re not involved.”

Black Sheep Brewery - Hero Brewery 1

Breal was focussed on turning around Black Sheep’s fortunes, and subsequently not interested in striking a deal for Adnams, Williams said

One business the group was interested in buying, however, was North Brewing Co, prior to its sale to Kirkstall Brewery owner Vertical Drinks last month.

Breal had held discussions with North – Williams confirmed – only to discover its owners were adamant the business should remain independent.

“It [North] was a target of ours for some time,” he said. “We never expected it to be going into administration. When they did file we had a discussion but they saw that their future was being a truly independent brewery.

“They did not want to be part of a group, and you have to respect that.”

What is Breal’s plan in beer?

To reach its £100m annual turnover target, Breal would apply the same techniques it had used to grow other ventures in the fields of steel, aviation and television, Williams said.

“Our model is this,” he said. “We take businesses and improve their efficiency. We acquire other businesses and bolt them on. If the business is unprofitable we return them to profit. All that profit then gets reinvested until we decide we can’t add any more value.”

When it had “achieved the goals” it had set itself in brewing, Breal would look to exit the industry, Williams confirmed.

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Williams said Breal had wanted to keep Brew By Numbers’ Grenwich site, but the landlord had earmarked it for redevelopment

Consolidating its operations, Breal last month announced it was to shut the London brewing operations of Brick Brewery and Brew By Numbers.

Williams denied, however, that it had been Breal’s plan all along to move production to Black Sheep Brewery.

He said Breal had wanted to brew both brands at Brew By Numbers in Greenwich, but was not willing to invest in the site as the landlord was planning to redevelop it and would only provide a three-year lease.

“It was never our intention to do we did in the end, but we wanted to protect the brand,” he said. “We had to make a decision and the decision wasn’t ‘let’s spend half a million pounds and move again in three years’.”

Breal rebrands as Keystone Brewing Co

He rejected the suggestion moving the brands out of London had compromised their identity and integrity.

“There are craft beer drinkers that have already made their minds up [about us],” he said. “I can’t change that. But at some point, we will brew some beer back in London, hopefully in another brewery that we have bought in a much smaller premises.”

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Purity Brewing Co was Breal’s most recent acquisition, in December 2023

Williams’ comments came as Breal unveiled a new identity of Keystone Brewing Co for its brewing operations.

The rebadged Keystone Brewing Co was “dedicated to supporting and nurturing both established and emerging brands within its portfolio”, Williams claimed.

The name Keystone was designed to reflect the “pivotal role” that would be played by Breal in the brewing industry in the years to come, he added.

Breal is run by Brent Osborne and Alan McLaren and was founded in 2013. In addition to its investments in beer, it also owns Vinoteca, a London wine bar group, and a stake in the D&D London restaurant chain.