Cheers! Prominent investor backs Leamington Spa drinks entrepreneur

Empress Ale founder Surj Virk (centre) with new investor Rupert Hambro (right) and
Empress Ale founder Surj Virk (centre) with new investor Rupert Hambro (right) and

A beer producer based in Leamington Spa has just won the backing of a leading businessman.

Empress Ale, a craft beer created by entrepreneur Surj Virk three years ago, has secured financial backing from Rupert Hambro, the former chairman of Hambros Bank.

Mr Hambro’s backing has previously helped establish Sipsmiths Gin as a leading brand.

Mr Virk said: “To attract investment from a name as well-respected and successful as Rupert is a huge feather in the cap for Empress Ale.

“We are absolutely delighted.

“This will give us the opportunity to consolidate our achievements to this point and aim for even greater growth over the next few years.”

Empress Ale had previously gained investment in 2017 from Grenville Turner, the former group chief executive of Countrywide PLC, founding director of Rightmove and director of Zoopla.

Mr Virk said: “We have done the groundwork to establish the brand over the last three years, to the point that it is widely-stocked in Michelin Star and Michelin Guide establishments, online and in shops across the UK.

“Having the involvement of Rupert, with his experience and knowledge within the alcohol industry is another great addition for the business.”

Mr Hambro, who worked for Hambros Bank until 1986, was an original investor in Sipsmiths Gin, which was sold for more than £50 million in 2016.

He said: “Throughout my career I have always looked to make investments backing people in businesses with real potential to grow and Empress Ale certainly fits that bill.

“Surj has done an impressive job to date to place the brand in many high-end London and Midlands establishments, in a market which is certainly not easy to crack.

“I look forward to working with Surj and his team to help grow the brand even further.”

The investment from Rupert follows Empress Ale’s appointment of Nicos Charalambous as its first global sales director.

He joins Empress Ale after more than six years as sales director for CELIA Lager, the successful Czech gluten-free beer.

He has also worked for other big-name beer brands such as Carlsberg and Brooklyn Lager.