Brewing a Perfect Business

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In conversation

Dancing Man Brewery

Mandy Lacey-Cross                   Aidan Lavin

Sales and Events Director         Brewing Director

Micro brewing and micro pubs are really taking off in Southampton thanks to a dedicated bunch of brewers who just love beer. Leading the vanguard is Mandy Lacey-Cross and the team at Dancing Man Brewery.

“I’ve been in the trade for 20 years and I love being a female in this industry,” said Mandy, as she stroked her  mischievous dog, Mr Watson.

“At one time all housewives brewed beer – people drank it because it was safer than the water – and that’s where the term public house comes from – brewing at home for the public.”

The interview is taking place in one of Southampton’s oldest buildings, the medieval Wool House. It was built by Cistercian Monks from Beaulieu Abbey and was used as a storehouse for wool exports to Europe.

For many years it was the city’s Maritime Museum but when the new SeaCity Museum opened, the council was looking for a sympathetic use that would allow people to enjoy the splendour of its ancient walls.

In February 2015, Dancing Man Brewery opened the doors to the city’s first Brewhouse, bar and restaurant.

“The council were very much on side from the start – we were the ones who weren’t sure. We had to work out if we could fit the brewery in and make sure the building would work for the public.

“At one stage we walked away when we thought the building was too big for us but we came back.

“When we put the feelers out to see who might be interested in investing with us, within three weeks we had a commitment from four people and ourselves – and the rest is history,” recalled Mandy.

Initially, Dancing Man Brewery planned to sell their beer nationally but the appetite for their brew has been so strong in the city, all the beer they brew gets consumed on home turf.

“We are 18 months ahead of our plans – Southampton just seems to love our beer.

“We would rather have our beer in Southampton and notgo elsewhere – it is brewed in Southampton for Southampton,”  she said.

Head Brewer Aidan Lavin revealed he came to brewing from adversity. A former roofer, a 35ft fall put paid to that career and he decided brewing was for him.

“I’m driven by a passion to make good beers – it’s something I have to do,” declared Aidan, with a huge warming grin.

And he’s not afraid to try some unusual flavours.

“We play around with flavours all the time adding things like mango and black pepper and pink grapefruit.

“One of the strangest ones has to be a black pudding stout we made. It was for a pork and beer banquet and I wanted to go a bit further than we had before with one of the beers – I think we are the first to make a beer with blood.

“And it seemed to go down a treat,” he said.

Sea City Gold, a pale ale first brewed to commemorate 50 years of city status for Southampton, has gone on to win a CAMRA award.

A collaboration with Brew Dog – the cool creators of Punk IPA and a two man and dog company that has grown to 540 employees by attracting the largest equity crowd funding in history – is on the cards and Aidan is pretty proud of this milestone.

But he’s equally chipper about helping a new kid on the block.

“There is a great community of people making beer. There’s a young lad from Southampton who has just set up in his garage.

“He wants to make a beer with sea salt, black pepper and squid ink – so we’re going to give it a go,” said Aidan.

Find out What's on from Mr Watson