Steel River Drinks in full flow

Raise your glasses – or maybe your cans – for the latest innovative product launches from leading Teesside artisan drinks brand Steel River.

It’s already made a big impact in its distinctive bottles but, from April, Steel River Gin will be available in cans.

“The launch of Steel River Gin in cans is timely considering that most people are looking forward to planning a staycation, a day at the races, picnics or just garden parties this summer,” says Middlesbrough-born founder Jay Byers.

“Steel River Gin has been there for our customers throughout lockdown, so it feels right that we are there for them too, in can form, when we get out and about after lockdown.”

A new £70,000 canning operation will be in full flow, with three of Steel River’s top-selling flavours making the canning cut first.

Stainsby Girl is a blue gin infused with exotic prickly pear cactus fruit. El Clasico is a vibrant red pomegranate and pistachio blend, while Jay says Club Tropicana is “the summer yellow gin”, made with pineapple and passionfruit. Further gins from the Steel River range will follow in canned form.

Jay explains: “We’ve been incredibly lucky to almost triple our turnover this last financial year. A lot of that is due to us starting up our very own gin club, the Steel River 265 Club, where our customers get exclusive gins made by me, just for them.

“The Covid crisis gave Steel River Drinks a captive audience, with people having a tipple at home and ordering online, so we have really done well. We’ve just ploughed everything back into the business, bought machinery, stepped up our design game and we’re now ready to launch many new products.”

Steel River’s good fortune has also meant the creation of more jobs for local people, increasing the team to 10.

Jay is also proud of the company’s philanthropic ethos. “It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to our community,” he says. “We give regularly to Teesside foodbanks, gift gins to hospitals and care home staff and recently we donated 20 laptops to a school in Thornaby. And every week we donate a bottle to a local hero through our Steel River Community Spirit Award.

“From my point of view, it’s the business community’s responsibility to help those less fortunate. You are not a good company unless you do good things. I think a lot of businesses could do more. It’s such a warm feeling to think you’ve helped make someone’s life a little easier, especially in these troubled times.”

Ever the down-to-earth Boro lad, Jay can still be found delivering Steel River Gin in his little car, chatting to customers on social media and writing personalised “Thank you” letters that go out with every bottle of gin.

“I’m very hands on,” he reflects. “I never want to let Steel River become just another faceless commodity.”

So what next for Jay and Steel River Drinks?

He reveals they have more gins to launch in the forthcoming months.

The LemonRock Edition is a zesty gin which infuses lemons from Jay’s home from home, Granada in Spain, and fresh Italian basil. “A really strong Mediterranean-inspired gin,” he says.

And there will also be a “long-awaited” clear Teesside Dry Gin coming this summer too. “A gin for the gin purists,” smiles Jay, “which will be made in our new £30,000 electric 500l column still.

“We are also expanding our production with a new unit on Teesside where we can start our gin tastings, gin making days and sell all our products from there too. Given it will be around 4,000 sq ft of space, it will also give us a lot of room to make other drinks.

“So expect more mixers, rums, a new standalone gin brand, a range of wines and something big that I can’t even go into yet.”

We’ll raise a glass – or even a can – to that! Facebook: @steelriverdrinks Instagram: @steelriver_jay Twitter: @jay_steelriver LinkedIn: @JayByers