Okells' Manx Cat stalks north west

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Related tags: Public house, Beer, Isle of man

By Tony Halstead Isle of Man-brewed Okells beers will play a starring role in a new pub chain opening on the UK mainland. Former Robert Cain Brewery...

By Tony Halstead Isle of Man-brewed Okells beers will play a starring role in a new pub chain opening on the UK mainland. Former Robert Cain Brewery managing director, Steve Holt, has teamed up with Okells to establish Manx Cat Inns in key locations throughout the north west. The first Manx Cat pub opens in Liverpool this summer and Holt hopes to have three pubs up and running before the end of the year, with a further 10 houses planned for the medium term. The move is part of an Okells' strategy to give its cask ales a higher profile outside the Isle of Man, where the beers have been an island institution since 1874. It will also help Okells, which has seen sales of the island held back by expensive shipping costs, find new points of distribution. The first Manx Cat Inn will open at the former Rigby's pub in Dale Street, Liverpool, in the summer following a £250,000 restoration and refurbishment. Holt said two further sites had been identified in the north west with openings expected by the end of this year. "We are looking for sites in the north west in locations which have strong links with the Isle of Man," he said. "We are convinced there is a market for cask-ale driven pubs flagging up the Okells name. The idea is to sell the Okells' range alongside guest ales and imported foreign beers." Holt has been working as a trade consultant since leaving Cains 18 months ago, where he developed a successful estate of tied beer houses on Merseyside. The former Cains' chief was involved in a bid to buy back the company earlier this year, but was pipped at the post by Midlands-based Gardner Shaw, operated by Asian brothers Sudarghara and Ajmail Dusanj. Okells is the Isle of Man's main brewer, operating a 55-strong tied pub estate on the island, where it also supplies 70 free trade accounts. All its beers are produced under the Manx Pure Beer Act which outlaws all additives and permits only water, malt, sugar and hops to be used in the brewing process.

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