A business leader with a passion for craft beer has been appointed to lead the company which owns a major Norfolk maltings.

Stuart Sands is the new chief executive at Anglia Maltings (Holdings), a group which includes Crisp Malt, based at Great Ryburgh near Fakenham.

The company was previously led and developed by David Thompson, who died last July.

Mr Sands arrives from his previous role in the USA, where he spent more than five years with the rapidly-expanding Country Malt Group, first as director of finance, then general manager.

During his tenure, the group served an American craft brewing industry whose members numbered over 10,000 - which he said "fuelled my enthusiasm for craft beers".

He now looks forward to bringing that expertise to East Anglia - a farming heartland of malting barley grown for the brewing and distilling industries.

“I’ve joined a fantastic business with great people, and am really looking forward to working with them to see just how much more we can achieve for our customers,” he said.

“It’ll be an exciting challenge for us to take the already-strong customer support to new levels. That’s as well as driving forward on our sustainability goals and the innovation work with the ingredients we produce.

“I’ve joined a company with a century-and-a-half of tradition and heritage. That’s a contrast to Country Malt Group’s mere 25 years of operating.

"There are lessons from the success of the new kid on the block and we’ll be drawing on some of those as we investigate opportunities for the business. We’ll be paying particular attention to the ones that help us deliver more for our customers.

“With our terrific team members, supportive investors and expert suppliers, those opportunities should be a-plenty. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with them.”

Mr Sands, who trained as a chartered accountant, and his wife have three young children and are from families in Ireland.

He is a keen sportsman and the lively Gaelic football team in his former US hometown of Portland is his creation.

“No pressure, but I will be expecting the team members to be ordering beers made using Crisp malt from now on,” he said.