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‘Wherry’ ale producer Woodforde’s changes hands in bid take business to the next level

PUBLISHED: 16:29 11 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:53 12 April 2016

Woodforde's Brewery in the broadland village of Woodbastwick.
March 2014

Picture: James Bass

Woodforde's Brewery in the broadland village of Woodbastwick. March 2014 Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

Woodforde’s Wherry has had a loyal following among Norfolk’s real ale connoisseurs for the past 35 years, and has long established itself in the beer lineup of the region’s pubs.

Woodforde's Brewery in the broadland village of Woodbastwick.
Bottled Wherry on sale in the brewery shop.
March 2014

Picture: James Bass

Woodforde's Brewery in the broadland village of Woodbastwick. Bottled Wherry on sale in the brewery shop. March 2014 Picture: James Bass

But now its drinkers can expect to see more of their favourite tipple after a change of hands will help Woodforde’s brewery develop the range of bottles and branch into cans to target the “drink at home” market.

The Woodbastwick-based business, with Norfolk at its core, has been sold to a group of investors who want to grow the business and expand its reach.

Former owners Dennis Nudd and Mike Betts have decided to retire, and its new owners – a panel of drinks experts – plan to invest heavily in the business, according to managing director Rupert Farquharson.

Mr Farquharson, who has been at the head of the brewery for five years, said: “We feel we need to invest significantly to drive the next stage of growth.

Woodforde's Brewery in the broadland village of Woodbastwick.
Casks in the cold room.
March 2014

Picture: James BassWoodforde's Brewery in the broadland village of Woodbastwick. Casks in the cold room. March 2014 Picture: James Bass

“The previous owners felt their appetite for that sort of investment was diminished.”

The next chapter will see James Hughes, formerly of drinks business Diageo; Nick Dolan, from beer specialists Real Ale; and investor Rupert Fraser take the lead.

Further investment will see between five and 10 people added to the 32-strong team over the next year, and the business will also expand into kegs.

Mr Farquharson added: “Woodforde’s is a business with passion for great beer at its very core.

“From day one Woodforde’s has been in the hands of passionate real ale enthusiasts and that won’t change as we move into this exciting new phase.

“I can’t imagine a more fitting team to take the baton of this special business than James, Nick and Rupert, who are at the cutting edge of the beer sector and genuine real ale fans in their own right.”

Mr Nudd, 66, who had been one of two majority shareholders for 17 years, said: “After making the decision to retire we sought out the right people to help Woodforde’s continue to grow and innovate, and to protect the values and heritage we have built within the business.”

Woodforde’s, which produces 20,000 barrels a year, is the largest brewery in Norfolk and one of a handful of brewers in the UK to have been awarded two Champion Beer of Britain accolades.

Mr Hughes said the consortium intended to build on the impressive foundations that were already in place.

He said: “Woodforde’s has

established a reputation for high quality beers and has excellent regional distribution as well as

wider national sales through

major pub chains and operators.”

Craft beer specialist Mr Dolan added: “We look forward to working with Rupert Farquharson and his team to help continue that success in such an exciting time in the UK beer sector.”

Are you planning to sell your business? Call business writer Sabah Meddings on 01603 772879 or email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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