Independent Manchester brewer JW Lees is making the most of its success last year in the Tesco Beer Challenge. Its John Willie's Manchester Champion Ale won the coveted prize of a 36 week exclusive national listing with the multiple. It is now planning to make the most of the national awareness and distribution by turning it into a major player in the £45m premium bottled ale market. It already has listing agreements with four other major multiples. Sales and marketing director William Lees-Jones said: "The flag we are trying to fly is that we are the brewer from Manchester. "The premium packaged ale market is driven by the regional brewers and we want to be a part of that." He is going to spend £100,000 supporting the brand and recognises he is going to have to live with that level of commitment if he is to stake his place in the market. "We will have to stick at it and keep doing the right things. "Strategically this is a very important move. "More people are drinking at home and if you are not in the off-trade then you are doing something wrong." He said that despite Granada having the highest per capita beer consumption in the UK, no north west brewer has emerged as a significant player. JW Lees is the leading brewer in the region with 172 pubs and in its heartland J W Lees Bitter is the top selling bitter and listed by all the major pub multiples. The brewer is working with Charles Wells which will handle its sales and distribution. {{DRINKS }}