Entrepreneur Series: Interview with Rory Lancellas
I met Rory Lancellas whilst I was working in Noordhoek in 2015, shortly after he had founded the Aegir Project - a small brewery and attached taproom. Three years on and his enthusiasm and passion for local small business is instantly contagious as it was then, alongside his love of brewing - an art he’s refined over many years.
Raphael Bromilow: How and where did your journey with beer begin?
Rory Lancellas: About ten years ago, whilst working as a carpenter in New Zealand, I lost a finger and had to quickly find a new career path. I pursued a job opportunity working in a brewery and soon discovered a hidden passion. I went on to work at a number of large-scale, industrial operations in New Zealand before moving to Scotland to learn under brewmasters in smaller craft breweries, ultimately heading back to South Africa to establish my own project.
RB: Where did the name come from?
RL: Aegir is the Norse god of the sea, who was appointed god of brewing by Odin. When I heard the story I thought it was pretty cool, and I didn’t care how hard it was to pronounce, I wanted it.
(Rory also has a charming, and somewhat mischievous, ridgeback named Aegir who wonders between tables with his big brown eyes hoping to win over a snack or a scratch)
RB: You’ve told me in the past that most of your support comes from locals, how did you get them on board?
RL: The whole time I’ve been building this business I’ve built it with a focus on longevity and sustainability. I focus on selling the hundredth beer to the same customer rather than selling a hundred beers to a hundred customers.
RB: It seems to me that craft brewing in Cape Town is becoming competitive, how do you cope with that?
RL: I actually don’t see it as competitive, rather that us brewers challenge each other to make better, more compelling beers. However, I do limit distribution to a few select stores in order to draw people into the tap room.
RB: I remember, when doing a tasting with you in the past, that the stories behind the beer really stuck with me, and made the experience all the more substantial. Has this sort of personal aspect always been important to the Aegir Project?
RL: Well, in the beginning, I was doing everything: brewing, serving, cleaning, invoicing, everything. Now that the business has grown, I’m more focused on the brewing side of things, but I’m still around on the weekends to get out there and tell people the stories they love to hear.
"In my mind if you have a good product and a good story behind it, you’ve struck gold."- Rory Lancellas
Find the Aiger Project online at https://aegirprojectbrewery.com/
Follow them on Instagram @aigerproject or visit the Brewery itself at the Red Herring Center in Noordhoek, Cape Town.