Mansfield was once synonymous with brewing – with its iconic brewery providing employment for generations of families.
However, Mansfield Brewery ceased trading in the town 14 long years ago.
But now, two men are taking tentative steps to restore that once-proud industry to the town, having opened their own micro-brewery.
Dave Vann and friend Phil Scotney, both from Mansfield, have bought the rights to Prior’s Well Brewery – previously based at Clumber Park – and moved it to Old Mill Lane Industrial Estate, Mansfield Woodhouse.
And they say the decision to buy was like how many start, over a pint and out of the blue.
Dave, a former sub-contractor engineer says: “It was just a conversation after I found this brewery for sale. It was a case of asking Phil ‘what do you want to be doing this time next year’.
“That was last January, so we talked about it and agreed to buy it. I was a pub manager, so I had a good background, but brewing is different all together.
“Right from day one, we wanted to bring brewing back to Mansfield.”
Dave and Phil spent six months learning the art with former owner Rob Neal, who still runs Maypole Brewery in Eakring.
And despite heading toward retirement, at the age of 62, Dave admits it has become a personal labour of love, having put in a sizeable investment between them.
And with the real-ale brewing revolution still in full swing, the business is reaping rewards.
The pair have about six different beers on the menu, from a dark-ruby ale to American India pale ales, and are producing somewhere in the region of 1,400 pints a week.
During busier periods, they can double that production.
They are already supplying to pubs around the Mansfield area, including The Railway Inn on Station Street, Ye Olde White Lion Inn on Church Street, The Brown Cow on Ratcliffe Gate and Mansfield’s town centre JD Wetherspoon pubs.
Dave says: “We have had a lot of interest. We have been selling virtually by word of mouth.
“In terms of cold calling, I’ve been twice in the last four months and that’s it.
“From what we’ve seen so far, once they buy some, they come back for more.
“We’ve put a lot into this already and our aim is to get to two brews a week every week.
“We’re not sure we even want to expand.”
In an unusual move, the pair have gone a step further than just brewing the beer, by setting up an oak-panelled bar on the first-floor mezzanine of the industrial unit, complete with pub chairs and tables.
Overlooking the brewing operation, they have a series of pumps selling their finished products, as well as a locally-produced cider, a lager and wine.
The bar is open on Thursday and Fridays from 2.30pm to 7.30pm “or TID”, as the flyer says - “till interest dies”.
Dave says: “We never shut at that time, it’s always been later.
“I don’t think I’ve closed before 9.30pm.
“We’re doing a lovely trade with some nice people who are interested in real ale, it’s going from strength-to-strength – people come up the stairs and just go ‘wow.’”
“When we moved in and got the floor plan we saw there was a mezzanine, we thought it would make a good bar for when we’ve got wholesale buyers in to try our beers.
“Then we had a look at it and thought it would be an novel idea to have a full-on bar.”