The Dutch brewer Royal Grolsch and Germany's Warsteiner Brauerei have extended their strategic alliance by agreeing that Warsteiner Italia will distribute, sell and market the Grolsch brand in Italy.

Grolsch said that its brand has entered a new phase after being present for some years on the Italian market. "With Warsteiner Italia Grolsch has fostered a partnership that can further expand the Grolsch volumes in Italy," Grolsch said in a statement.

Grolsch aims to triple its Italian sales in the next four to five years through the Warsteiner deal.

Grolsch and Warsteiner Brauerei began a strategic alliance in February last year. It initially focused on buying packaging and raw materials. entered an alliance in early 2002 to bolster their market position and competitive strength in a rapidly consolidating beer market, while keeping their independence.

However in a statement Grolsh said: "It remains the intention of both breweries to expand their cooperation further. In that way the brewers wish to strengthen their position and competitive strength in the consolidating beer market, without damaging their independence."

The company also said that its alliance with Warsteiner was not exclusive and that the company's would be interested in possible further partners, who were welcome to join part if not all of the alliance.

"There are contacts (with other interested parties)," a grolsh spokesman said, though he declined to detail who those potential partners were.