If someone had told me that Mpumalanga is a must-visit province for beer lovers I would probably have laughed at them or assumed they’d already imbibed a fair amount of the aforementioned liquid gold. As it turns out, an expedition to this part of the world will please anyone who prefers micro-brewed beers or would like to try an alternative to the ales, pilsners and lagers offered by the commercially popular breweries.
The beer sojourn starts in Dullstroom at the Anvil Brewery whose beers, like the town, are rich in history. They are known for three tipples: a hybrid Blonde Ale; an English Pale Ale and the Black Anvil porter. My personal favourite is the Blonde Ale which is crisp and refreshing. A hallmark of the Anvil’s beers is that they are not as carbonated as most, something that leaves drinkers feeling less bloated. While in Dullstroom be sure to try some of the local trout, visit one of the chocolatiers and enquire about properties to rent or buy in some of the developments – there are a few golf and trout estates worth looking at. If you are only going for the beer then visit www.anvilbrewery.com.
Moving further north, our beer jaunt takes us to one of the highest points on Long Tom Pass. About 12km from Lydenburg lies Hops Hollow – a guest lodge, micro-brewer and restaurant. Visitors pay R10 for a tasting session and from there can decide between a pint, half pint or beers to take home. The breathtaking view of the valley below combined with a product range that contains interesting ingredients such as ginger and coriander or chocolate and coffee are worth the trip alone. Like all good mountain-top pubs there are comfortable couches, a roaring fireplace and friendly dogs. Visit www.hopshollow.com for further information.
Going down Long Tom Pass, past Sabie, the Mac Mac falls and Graskop, you’ll eventually arrive at the town of Hazyview. Many travellers use Hazyview for refuelling and supply shopping before heading to the Kruger National Park. The town also has two other stops worth making, both beer related. Le-Patissier at Perry’s Birdge Hollow seems like a strange place to find ales. It is primarily a bakery that deals in sweet eats and treats but they do have a small section dedicated to wine and imported beers. Yes, you’ll find your well known brands but you will also uncover a number of Belgian beers. My favourite was a berry flavoured beer – it was lite, not too carbonated and easily drinkable, something I didn’t expect from a beer that is sweet.
While at Perry’s Bridge Hollow you will also find Perry’s Bridge Restaurant – a micro brewer that is popular with locals and visitors. Their three products are the Lowveld Ale, the Lowveld Lager and the Lowveld Light – all of which can be enjoyed in the shaded wooden deck of the restaurant. The stalls selling curios ensure that the centre swarms with tourists so if you can plan your trip to Perry’s Bridge not to coincide with bus tours you’ll be able to enjoy a quiet pint, peaceful meal and browse the various shops and stalls. If not you may have to stand in long queues to purchase a wooden giraffe. Visit www.perrysbridgehollow.co.za for further information.
FInally, no beer trip to Mpumalanga can be complete without going to the Royal Hotel in Pilgrim’s Rest. They don’t have a wide range of beers but it is tradition that everyone who visits this national monument has a draft in the hotel bar. Who am I to argue with tradition?