Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat has set up a dedicated UK office to build the on-trade presence of its stable of speciality beers.

The brewer said today (15 August) that Duvel Moortgat UK would be headed by Nick Short, who will lead a sales team of four to promote its brands throughout the UK.

Short said: "Opening the UK office shows the long term commitment of Duvel Moortgat to this market and is an indicator of how the speciality beer category is growing. We are excited about Duvel's future growth prospects in the UK."

Duvel UK will work with the brewer's existing local distributor, James Clay and Son, the company said. The office will promote Duvel alongside its sister brands Vedett and Maredsous.

Short told just-drinks that there were signs that UK consumers were choosing quality over quantity when it came to drinking beer.

He said: "We've detected early changes in drinking habits and that the long-fabled café culture is starting to appear. Drinking occasions are changing, there's less vertical drinking and people are unwinding rather than winding up."

Short insisted Duvel was seen as one of the "signpost" brands - alongside Hoegaarden and Leffe - for consumers entering the speciality beer category. However, he said Duvel was not looking to compete directly with the InBev-owned brands.

"Speciality beer is a fragmented category and there is room for lots of different players. Our aspiration is not to be the next Leffe. InBev is a massively resourced organisation and we're pretty realistic about that.

"Leffe, Hoegaarden and Duvel are seen as signpost brands for the category and that's something we're more than happy with."

Duvel saw total sales in the UK leap 47% last year, contributing to an 8% increase in global sales. The brewer has a number of investments planned elsewhere with EUR10.5m (US$13.4m) earmarked to upgrade its brewery in Belgium. Duvel also plans to spend EUR6m to double capacity at its Ommegang brewery in New York.