Giant of the South
To be a giant is to see above the clouds, the way forward and into the future. To be a giant is to stand steadfast when the odds are stacked and stick true to your principles. Rory Lancellas, has been a giant of South African brewing since his beloved Aegir Project was founded in 2015. His principle is etched in his Norse God inspired brand’s tag line, ‘Real beer made properly’. His brewery is by no means big in volume but in attitude it is a true giant.
Rory would be the first to shy away from such analogies of giants and deities and has modestly gone about forging a reputation of being the brain and hand behind SA’s finest beers over the last four years. His brewery is located in the village by the sea on the southern peninsula of Cape Town, Noordhoek. His love for the sea does not see him stray to far from the coastal breezes so his location is a natural fit. Aegir’s tap room has become a favourite amougst beerlovers far and wide who are willing to travel for sip of his quality beers. He took a bold decision a few years back to pull all distribution and focus consumption where he could 100% curate it and control it, at his tap room. This model, although incredibly taxing on time as he wears the brewer and bar manager hat, has been very successful in creating a brand home and has seen him open a second tap room, the Ale House at Constantia Uitsig in 2018.
His journey, like many who reach the peak, was a series of moments that accumulated towards reaching mastery. We asked him if he could remember that moment and beer that brought him to the realization that brewing was his calling. “I remember it very clearly, I was drinking a Dogfish Head 90 min IPA, that’s when I got inspired to really push my comfort zones and start to push the flavours of the beers I was making”, reveals Rory.
It all began for the see loving surfer while doing his apprenticeship working on the brew floor of Speights Brewery, New Zealand. Although he does credit his time in Scotland for his true brew awakening and clearly remembers his first craft beer in South Africa to be a Dunkel at the legendary Paulaner Brauhaus at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
Rory’s Aegir Project has gone onto set standards with world class beers like the Giant IPA, California Steamin’, Red Rye and Midnight Porter. Added to this are highly sought after and innovative once-offs and limited editions like his Russian Imperial Stout and Ode to Harvest to name a few South African modern classics.
He attributes his beers competitive advantage to, “quality, consistency and balance. Absolutely will not compromise on ingredients “, exclaims Rory. He adds that the biggest challenge to achieving his beer visions is access to these quality ingredients. Rory cites his partnership with Africa Hops as alleviating his biggest pain point, “Getting quality ingredients delivered to the door! The beers we brew are aimed to be packed with aromas and flavours, to do so you need the freshest and cleanest ingredients that are handled correctly from the farm to the brewery”.
He is quick to point out that the unsung heroes in the world of beer are the farmers and the maltsters that curate raw ingredients from seed to plant to package with the same love and care and eye on the quality principle that the best brewers do. “Without good ingredients you can’t get the quality you need in the market place”, continues Rory. He is happy to partner up with Africa Hops as they are start-up brewers and understand the rigors associated with operating such businesses . “Empathy…haha only brewers know the pain and effort that goes into each and every drop of beer”, exclaims Rory.
Rory loves working with all ingredients and is not drawn on what might be his favourite. He is however a massive fan of Simpsons Malt, “All things that Simpsons bring to the table, purely the consistency of the malt allows me to make minor tweaks to recipes to really fine tune them,” comments Rory.
We pose the dreaded beer style extinction question, we give him the option to save three beer styles. His responses of Lambic, IPA and Lager reveals his love and understanding of the great variety of beer styles and how they are all about imbibing in context. His response in reverse is almost like a good three course beer taster with a thirst quenching dry and crisp appertif lager followed by a hop forward and aromatic India Pale Ale and finished by the complexity of a wild ale in the traditional Belgian Lambic.
So what is on the horizon for Rory and his Aegir Project? “I’m really enjoying brewing lagers lately, the nuances in flavours really excite me and feel it really pushes my brewing comfort zones”, explains Rory. Don’t fret you hop mad beer lovers he is also continuously looking at experimenting with the style that drew him to beer in the first place, the hazy juicy double IPAs.
We are certainly looking forward to working closely with Rory as he continues to forge a reputation for making some of South Africa’s finest beers. This Giant of the South is driving our industry forward by sticking to principles of what you put in you get out and by making bold decisions based on their core mission. Making real beer properly.
*Cover Photo Credit: Dwayne Senior – see more dwaynesenior.com