Danish brewer Royal Unibrew is mounting an assault on the country's growing import and speciality beer segment with the launch of a dedicated business, dubbed Xbeer.

Royal Unibrew, Denmark's number two brewer, told just-drinks today (20 July) that Xbeer would sell a stable of 17 brands, which will be imported from abroad or produced in Denmark's micro-breweries.

"In Denmark, as in other countries in Europe, demand for specialty beers is rising quite significantly," a Royal Unibrew spokesman told just-drinks. "Danes have started to demand speciality beers, with different taste and flavour. It's not just about having a football pint but having an extraordinary taste experience."

Import and speciality beers have seen their combined share of the Danish beer market almost triple since 2003, according to latest figures from the Danish Brewers' Association. In 2003, brands from these segments accounted for a combined 1.7% of the Danish market - last year, the figure reached 4.9%.

Royal Unibrew sells and distributes the Heineken stable in Denmark and the Xbeer portfolio holds a number of the brewer's labels, including Amstel and Affligem.

The Royal Unibrew spokesman said Heineken was aware of the formation of the Xbeer unit, but insisted that the Dutch brewing giant had no input in setting up the business.

The Xbeer stable also includes Ceres Strong Ale or Red Eric, produced at Royal Unibrew's Ceres site in Aarhus.

The spokesman declined to comment on Royal Unibrew's share of the import and speciality segments or its growth targets for the categories.