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The Red Lion team: Josh Pitts, Seb Cook and head brewer Jac Ziegler.

Community ownership beckons for Devon brewery

A brewery in Totnes, Devon is poised to convert to community ownership in the new year.

New Lion Brewery is launching a share offer in February, inviting investors to become part-owners of the business. Aptly dubbed LionShare, the campaign also aims to raise £150,000 to relocate and expand the operation.

Founded in 2013 by a group of people on the town’s Local Enterprise Forum, New Lion has gained what director Rob Hopkins described as “a dedicated following, not only in local pubs but at beer festivals and in bottle shops around the country, and we’ve outgrown the space over the past year.”

More than 200 people have become members of the brewery’s club, which offers a discount in the tap room. Now the plan is to take that demand to be a part of the business to the next level.

“It’s been our dream from the beginning that New Lion would become community-owned,” Hopkins explained. “It’s an exciting prospect.”

If the campaign succeeds the company will join brewers such as Pumphouse Community Brewery and Drone Valley Brewery as a Community Benefit Society with access to financial and other support and tax breaks for its owners.

The hope is that by June next year it will be able to move into premises on a nearby trading estate and share the space with local bakery The Almond Thief in what is described as “a celebration of yeast, flour, community, ingenuity and the circular economy.”

Additional fermenters will double the brewery’s capacity to 90 barrels a week and alongside it will be a venue where local people can eat, drink and meet.

As well as continuing to produce its core range of cask ales for local pubs, Hopkins also wants to exploit the extra capacity – and the willingness of new head brewer Jac Ziegler to “explore the unknown” – to expand New Lion’s limited-edition beers and take them to a wider audience.

A series of collaborations with other local businesses and community organisations has already inspired eye-catching innovations including a chuckleberry sour, a stout laced with oyster mushrooms grown on brewery waste and a barley wine made with surplus sourdough bread.

Phil Mellows
22tnd December 2018

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