Premium gin launched by top local brewer in Portadown

Entrepreneur Ryan McCracken is building on his successful experience in craft brewing by launching a premium gin that’s likely to be the first in a series of spirits that he’s been planning over the past few years.

Ryan, a progressive and totally committed businessman, owns and runs McCrackens Real Ale, a Food NI member and now among the most successful craft breweries in Northern Ireland. He sees the expansion into distilling premium spirits a logical extension for the locally-owned and managed business.

Focused on growth, Ryan invested in new distilling kit late last year and also added a second canning line to existing machinery at his expanded, state-of-the-art operation at the Co Armagh market town.

He’s installed a 1,000 litre column distillery that has the capacity to produce 1,500 bottles of gin and other spirits daily.

“We’re proud of our grain-to-glass approach at McCrackens that enables us to manage the entire distilling process in-house – from grain to beer and spirit,” he says. “This not only ensures the highest quality but also embodies our commitment to innovation, attention to detail, traceability and excellence in everything we do,” he adds.

Ryan’s new gin recipe features 11 original botanicals including local heather he’s harvested with other family members from the vast mountain trails and parks around Craigavon. It is being branded McCrackens Premium Gin.

“I’ve invested extensively in the latest equipment and in branding and merchandising the gin. I decided to keep McCrackens because it’s an established and respected brand here and in several export markets such as Italy and Britain.

”I’ve been moving towards distilling for some time,” he explains. “The processes are similar, and I spent a lot of time reading about and mastering the process of how best to produce a premium gin,” he says.

Brewing is the process of brewing beer from grains, such as wheat and barley, while distilling is essentially the process of taking fermented beverages such as beer and wine, and then separating the alcohol from them.

He’s looking forward to using wheat and barley in the development of distinctive range of locally crafted spirits.

 “I also have a network of contacts in hospitality that will be very beneficial as I launch the gin. Many already know about the spirit and are immensely supportive.  They are keen to have it on their shelves and as soon as practicable.

“The contacts from my successful portfolio of beers and stouts include hotels, bars, supermarkets and off-licences. These customers appreciate the consistently high quality and outstanding taste of the beers that we deliver as required. They know that they can count on us to provide them with a quality gin and, in time, other spirits such as rum and Irish whiskey,” he adds.

The additional canning line at the business, now to be known as McCracken’s Brewery and Distillery, increases packaging and presentational opportunities for the spirits. ‘There are so many options now for us to grow the business from the equipment that we’ve installed and the research we’ve carried out over the past few months,” he continues.

Ryan, a former IT manager, has an impressive track record in terms of ongoing investing in the brewery. These have included a new kegging line prior to lockdown. He’s grown volume at the brewery substantially to 15,000 litres a month and also expanded his portfolio of award-winning beers and stouts to seven which are now on sale in hundreds of outlets here and further afield.

“Our capacity was just over 1,200 litres a month in 2018. We’ve been able to increase our capacity by 1150 percent since then.  We are still producing hand-crafted, naturally conditioned, unfiltered and award-winning beer.”

The successful increase in volume will benefit the business as it scales up operations with the launch of the new gin and other spirits.

“Exporting also continues be an important element of our business strategy. We expect the gin to become an essential part of this focus and to assist the growth of our company,” he adds.

Ryan’s bold investment has positioned the brewery to seize opportunities predicted by marketing experts suggesting that craft beers and now spirits are in line for large scale growth in the global marketplace.

There’s now a growing recognition of the entrepreneurship of the brewers and distillers like Ryan McCracken and their success in crafting award-winning Irish beers and spirits that are unique, richly flavoured, local and innovative.