We chatted to Crusader neighbour Sam Dyson of Track Brewing Co. about the neighbourhood and the science behind brewing.

Who are you? What do you do?

My name is Sam Dyson. I’m the owner and head brewer of Track Brewing Company. We’ve been brewing now for two years and we are very close to Crusader Mill. In fact you could probably see the brewery if you sat in one of the windows.

Tell us what got you into brewing.

I first got into brewing years ago. At university we would brew our own beer because it was… cheap, essentially! And the science, I mean my background is in maths and economics but the science behind brewing is fascinating. And so I’ve been brewing for 15 years now.

In a in a deep level the science behind brewing is it can be an incredibly technical subject but also there’s a lot of creativity involved in it as well. It’s analogous to baking really. You can give someone the same set of ingredients tell them to make something and you come up with two very different things and that’s what I like about brewing is that you have four essential elements which is the water, yeast, hops and barley. But around that it’s unlimited the possibilities of using those four ingredients are almost infinite. And once you start playing around with you know barrel-aging sours, the yeast cultures, and you can do almost anything with it. It’s an endlessly entertaining sort of subject. Plus, I really like beer. So that helps to have an unlimited supply of beer, I guess!

What’s the area like?

We are in an area where there’s a lot of small local producers. There are other microbreweries around here and there’s what most would consider to be a world class bakery. Just around the corner from us is the Mayfield Depot which is just being renovated at the minute and there is a new street food market which showcases a lot of street food producers in Manchester. So yeah the whole area itself has got a ton of local small independent local businesses that are producing really good stuff.

Do you feel like the area has changed much?

Yeah it’s changed an awful lot even in the three years I’ve been based here not just in terms of the number of buildings that are going up and the skyline of the city. Just there is a lot of smaller interesting independent commercial companies popping up. It’s a testament to there’s just a lot of ideas in Manchester small local level and there’s a lot of people who’ve got some really, really good ideas who are producing some pretty amazing things at the minute.

The brewing scene in particular is arguably the best in the country at the minute. And then there’s the sort of the street food level of producers is coming up to meet that as well. So it’s a really interesting time and it is changing a lot and it’s continuing to change as well.

If we just think about what’s going on around Sheffield Street in particular we’ve got Crusader Mill coming up. You’ve also got the Mayfield Depot. I know that there are another number of developments going on with London Fire Station which is just down the road from the Mayfield Depot. So again Piccadilly Basin in itself will change entirely I imagine the next five years.

Why did you base yourself in this area?

From a business perspective we can come out of the brewery and be in the northern quarter in less than five minutes with a delivery van. We can then hit the like the Manchester Ring Road flyover to go out to Liverpool, Leeds, Stockport. So for us from a purely logistics perspective, this end of town is really really good. But also. There’s so much potential around here. We’re right underneath Piccadilly Station. There’s developments going on all the time. We can only imagine there’s going to be more property developments around this area. We know that there’s there’s people who are going to be in this area. So if we wanted to open our doors and have brew taps or sell directly to the public then this is a really good place to do it.

Do you have any interaction with the other businesses here?

The local business community around here is is it is incredibly co-operative and it always has been since the very beginning. Brewing is unique and I think that where people always say it’s a very collaborative industry and it genuinely is. This very morning we didn’t have enough ingredients for what we’re going to brew tomorrow because the delivery hadn’t arrived so I went to two more independent breweries that are in the area got exactly what we needed. And then tomorrow I’ll go back and give them return than what they lent me today. Pollen the bakery that’s two doors down we’ve given them spent grain from the end of our brewing process that they will then put into their rye breads then sell the next day. They’ve done a collaboration with another brewery in Manchester called runaway for Manchester beer week that’s coming up.

Just around the corner of the Mayfield Depot has reopened as a food market and I think that’s almost the epitome of what the collaborative nature of the small produce is because you can walk in there and will you’ll eat food from a guy that’s baking the bread around the corner. There are butchers that are from the local area. There’s guys that are making burgers, wraps, salads, all this kind of stuff. And then on the bar you’ll walk to the bar and you can buy through a range of 10, 15 beers that are produced from within the inner ring road of Manchester and all of those guys know each other. It’s a very interesting time to be here I think. Because it’s it’s the whole thing is still developing really. It’s not. It’s a long way to go but it’s definitely it’s definitely going somewhere.

Do you think apartments should be sold first to people who will live in them?

Yeah the notion that Crusader Mill the would be sold to Manchester people primarily is a great thing because I think we’ve all seen what happens when you sell off residential property and you only need to look at the sort of downtown parts of London and walk through them on a Saturday and Sunday and see blocks and blocks of empty flats with only a couple of lights on and that kind of thing and you know that there’s probably like a 30 percent occupancy rate because the people that have purchased them aren’t there. But there is still a core of people that live directly in the in the city and my knowledge that number’s been only been growing. I think Manchester up until recently had got a very low number of people that actually lived within the city centre it was all spread into the suburbs.

To provide people with low somewhere amazing to live within that is a great thing and should be encouraged at all costs. And you’d only hope that more and more people would start to think about this because it’s a very progressive way of thinking. Selling things off to make a return on investment. I understand from a commercial perspective but if you want to keep people within the city and help the city grow and develop and encourage everything that’s going on around it then the core asset of that is people say to provide them somewhere great to live as it is probably a really good thing.

…So I mean I’ll have one!

What’s nice about a converted mill loft-apartment?

So the thing I like about mills are the fact that a lot of they retain original features by and large. So you have the original brick-work you have the joyces the the beams. Quite often the windows are quite high so you get a lot of light in there. So many of these developments are very sort of identikit boxes and with these sort of old conversions you get something a little bit unique a bit more characterful I guess.

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