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Former Sipsmith Gin chairman Rupert Hambro invests in Warwickshire entrepreneur’s craft beer

Empress Ale Founder Surj Virk (Centre) with new Investor Rupert Hambro (Right) and Global Sales Director Nicos Charalambous (Left)

A respected businessman whose backing helped establish Sipsmiths Gin as a market-leading brand has invested in a Warwickshire entrepreneur’s craft beer.

Rupert Hambro, the former chairman of Hambros Bank and Sipsmiths, has invested in a shareholding in Empress Ale, a unique, easy-drinking premium pale ale created by Leamington-based businessman Surj Virk in 2016.

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

It represents a further step forward for the brand, which is now volume-produced and stocked by several Michelin Guide restaurants, after originally being brewed in small batches at a microbrewery in Leicestershire.

Surj 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.

“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.”

Rupert, who was given a CBE in 2014 for charitable services, worked for Hambros Bank until 1986 and, most recently, he established private equity business, Hambro Perks, with business partner Dominic Perks.

He was an original investor in Sipsmiths Gin, which was sold for more than £50 million in 2016, after being approached by founders Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall.

Rupert 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.

Nicos 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.

For more information, visit: www.empressale.com.