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Kissingate Brewery in Lower Beeding

Kissingate Brewery in Lower beeding

Interview with Gary Lucas, owner of Kissingate Brewery.

Published in October 2018


When was Kissingate Brewery born? We started out in 2010, initially brewing at home before moving to a tiny unit on the Church Lane Estate in Lower Beeding. From the beginning, our aim was to produce niche, off-the-wall beers. We didn’t want to “run with the pack” and make regular best bitters or pale ales. So, we leaned towards fruitier beer like the Black Cherry Mild, which helped us a great deal in those early days as it won several awards at festivals.

Has your beer range expanded? A lot more micro-breweries have emerged as the craft ale market has boomed and naturally that has led to increased competition. We’ve had to evolve and diversify and expand our range of regular beers. These now include Six Crows, Kissingate Moon, Storyteller, Chennai Premium IPA and Murder of Crows, which won at the Sussex Beer Festival in 2016 and 2017. We have 28 beers but some, like Plum Porter and Jamaica - are seasonal or event beers.

Is it fair to say that your beers are an acquired taste? There is a ‘love it or hate it’ element to Kissingate. We want to be controversial, otherwise we’d be brewing middle of the road beers. I like encouraging debate. I’ve seen people that love our beers pass a pint to a friend who doesn’t like it at all! Criticism is inevitable with niche beers. Does this limit your commercial opportunities?There are more people that come to us because we are 
different than steer away. We’re well-known at beer festivals and that is where we’ve pitched our sales. We’ve picked up many awards, including Champion Beer of Britain recognition for our Six Crows, Black Cherry Mild and Mary’s Ruby Mild. We also supply free houses, including pubs in Brighton Lanes and The Hope in Carshalton, one of the best pubs in the country. We do brew a Sussex best bitter, which is primarily for Wetherspoon's, who are very good at supporting local breweries. We supply 16 of its pubs in the south east.

You’ve also moved to a bigger unit... In 2012, we moved just a few metres away to another unit. But it’s a million miles away in terms of what we could offer as a brewery. Two years ago, we were looking at ways to make the most of the space we have. We considered buying more tanks to brew more beer, but it was doubtful we would succeed with that business model. We’re simply not brewing the right kind of beer. Our passion is specialist beers and only through brewing in small batches can we maintain demand. If we were making beer that was available everywhere, we’d lose the novelty factor. Still, we knew we needed a different arm to the business.

When did the ‘lightbulb’ moment come? A cafe on East Street came on the market and we thought about taking it on and opening a brewery tap in Horsham. We viewed the unit, but there were various planning issues that restricted options for us. Eventually, Dark Star took it on and very successfully launched The Anchor Tap. However, that got us thinking about options and we thought ‘why not create a bar within our micro-brewery?’ 

How much work needed to be done to the building? Our landlords, the Slade family, were fantastic when we first moved to the bigger unit and built the extension for us. Bernard Slade likes the idea of having a brewery on the estate!  When it came to creating a bar, we looked at different designs on Pinterest for inspiration and one idea we really liked was a starry ceiling. It seemed beyond our budget but another business on the estate did it for us, in return for using the brewery as a showroom. Lots of local people and businesses have been involved in the project. 

How do you attract customers? As we are off the beaten track, we needed something that would convince people to travel a bit further. We’ve hosted functions and themed events including curry nights, folk music, arts and crafts, food pairings, gin evenings and a club night on the last Friday of the month. We call it a club night, but there’s no membership and all are welcome. A key focus for us is working with local businesses like The Real Oyster Company in Pease Pottage, which supported us for a fish fingers night. We hope this will help bring more people here and spread word of what we’re doing. 

Is it working? This is becoming a place for local people to come to, particularly as Mannings Heath hasn’t had a pub since The Dun Horse closed. The feeling I get is that some of our regulars don't want people to know about this, as they don't want to queue at the bar! The bar has a very different look to most places as Bunny took the lead on design. It means I suffer a bit of barracking from friends in the brewery trade, as it’s quite feminine!

Do you see this kind of bar becoming more popular? We see a lot of women here because of the look of the bar and the relaxed atmosphere. Outside of town, there isn’t much choice apart from pubs, which tend to be occupied by ale-drinking men with beards. We are seeing breweries taking the lead in offering something different. Firebird has a great bar at its brewery in Rudgwick and runs that alongside tours. Firebird has a bigger set-up than we do as it brews more beer and we are not looking to expand on that scale. However, there are similarities in that we are offering something to a clientele that wasn’t being catered for. 

What are your future plans for the business? We are growing herbs, spices and hops in the garden behind the brewery, which we’ll use in some of our beers. We’ll continue to host events, with a beer and curry evening in November. Octoberfest includes wine, gin, ciders and beers from other local producers alongside a BBQ and music. 

Onwards and upwards then! We have had tough times, especially during the early years. We came close to the brink on several occasions but we always had people willing to help us. Now we are where we wanted Kissingate to be and can build to our own model.


Kissingate’s Micro Club night is held on the last Friday of the month from 5-10pm. Octoberfest is held on Saturday 13 October, 11am – 9pm. For details about Kissingate’s events and beer range, visit www.kissingate.co.uk