Bringing the full craft beer experience to adventurous Sligo

Lough Gill Brewery, a well-established beer brand, is looking for investment to open its own visitor experience, adding to the area’s adventure tourism scene

James Ward, owner of Lough Gill Brewery: ‘With Sligo a centre for adventure tourism, a brewery visitor experience is a great addition to the business.’ Picture: Joe Dunne

It’s fair to say that the craft beer scene is going from strength to strength in Ireland, with the supermarket shelves and the bar fridges full of new and local names, all with something different to offer the beer enthusiast.

One brand that has made a splash is Lough Gill Brewery, a craft beer business in Sligo town with a wide portfolio of beers and an exceptional collection of Irish Whiskey Barrel Aged Stouts for 2023 which will be released shortly.

Now the company is looking to build on its success by creating a new visitor experience in Sligo town, capitalising on the growth of adventure tourism in the area.

Lough Gill Brewery

Number of staff: 7

Turnover: €1 million-plus

Why it’s in the news: the established craft beer business is looking to expand to include a visitor experience centre in Sligo town

Lough Gill is headed by James Ward, who has spent his entire career in the pub, hospitality, distribution and brewing business, both in Ireland and the US.

“When I came back to Ireland and saw all the pubs offering the same few beers from the same couple of big breweries, I knew there was a need for a more diverse and interesting range of beers,” said Ward.

“I’m happy to say that a lot has changed in the last number of years, with most bars and restaurants offering a local and/or different range. It’s great for the customer and the consumer.”

As for Lough Gill, Ward said, “We’ve grown year on year; our beers are currently sold in many good independent off-licences. We’re also sold through Tesco, Aldi, Centra and SuperValu nationwide. We’ve sold into the US – New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Maine, Florida, Texas and California. We also export to France, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and Italy.

“We’ve had an average revenue growth of 49 per cent per annum in the last four years. It’s projected that in 2023 we’ll exceed over €1 million in sales. We’ve been profitable during those four years and we have poured those profits back into the business. Now, though, we are embarking on our first EIIS fundraising round for our new project: creating a visitor experience for Sligo.”

Ward, who is the only shareholder in the business, is looking to raise €500,000 – with a minimum investment of €5,000, offering 4.5 per cent per annum.

“The Wild Atlantic Way has given adventure travel in the area a big boost. We regularly have people knocking at the door interested in seeing the brewery and tasting the products,” he said.

“Drinks tourism is very popular in the States and in Europe, with many places offering distillery or brewery tours. Ireland is just starting to get into this too, and with Sligo a centre for adventure tourism, a brewery visitor experience is a great addition to the business.”

Tourism is steadily growing in Sligo, and with the area earmarked as a centre of regional development, Ward believes that a year-round visitor experience will add to the success Lough Gill has already enjoyed.

“The company is already profitable, we’ve kept debt to a minimum, we’re a single shareholder company, and we’ve reinvested everything we have made into the company. We’re at the growth stage and have some business behind us – so while this is our first fundraising, we’re not a new start-up, we have a proven brand and a strong proposition,” Ward said.

“Our location is great too, there’s a lot going on in Sligo. Right now you have the newly built surf and mountain biking centres – so the adventure aspect of the area is strong, and this feeds into the craft beer scene very well.”

Underpinning the new project is the established product range, which has won accolades all around the world.

“What sets us apart is our range of premium craft products that are multi-award winning. Distribution is key, we have good coverage in Ireland and we are growing our export markets all the time. This is key to the success of our business.”

Lastly, the investment will allow the company to improve production efficiencies. “We have identified a number of pieces of equipment that will greatly decrease our cost-per-litre of beer instantly, increasing profitability,” said Ward.

“We are also looking at progressive technologies such as a CO2 regeneration system, solar panels, a new energy-efficient boiler and rainwater harvesting – all of which will help us achieve our green agenda, which is very important to us as a company.”