We’ve all got that friend who brews his own beer at home. And we’ve all groaned under our teeth when he’s asked us to try his beers, many of which have a similar aroma to rotting leaves and taste remarkably like petrol, battery acid and Marmite. Until fairly recently, home brews were a mixed bag but all of this has changed since micro brewing has blossomed as a hobby.
For most South Africans, beer is something you chug back in large quantities while hurling abuse at a cheating umpires/referees/Formula 1 drivers. The growth of micro breweries and craft beer is changing all of that as we have been introduced to a whole new bouquet of flavours and aromas.
At a recent craft beer festival, I decided to try a novel brew from Three Skulls Brew Works. I attempted their “Baby got back” brew, which has a smoked flavour reminiscent of bacon. Yes. Bacon. To be brutally honest I did not enjoy it one bit but appreciate the fact that we now have bacon flavoured beer. I know that Hops Hollow on Long Tom Pass have a beer with a chocolate flavour and while it’s not my cup of tea, it is good to know that brewers are attempting to expand the South African beer palette.
I got to chatting to some of the folks manning the stalls and get the feeling that the larger breweries in South Africa are not too threatened by the rise of the microbrewer. While extra producers mean extra competition, the nature of craft beers is that a whole new market is being exposed to beer consumption.
Like wine tasting events, craft beer festivals are an opportunity for brewers to showcase a variety of beverages to the public. Each festival goer is bound to enjoy some more than others and, in the eyes of beer producers, gain a better understanding of the beverage. Once you are able to appreciate different brews, you might choose beer as your tipple of choice in the future.
Of course, these were opinions held by brewers who’d spent the whole day in the sun, sampling their own products. Even so, given that craft brewers don’t produce the same quantities as large breweries, it’s unlikely that sports stadiums, pubs, restaurant, hotels and convention centres will drop commercial beers in favour of bacon and chocolate flavoured beer.
Below is a list of micro-brewers to look out for and a few online shops that sell beer kits. With stores, I recommend finding one in your area. Supply prices are similar but if you live in Cape Town and order from Johannesburg, you can expect a hefty courier bill. A number have warehouse that allow you to collect orders, saving you money.
The Cockpit Brewhouse – situated in Cullinan, they offer excellent beer tours and accommodation. Their Mustang American Pale Ale is a winner.
Odyssey Craft Brewery – you’ll find their wares at the Shongweni Market in Durban. They are relatively new on the scene but already make a fine Pilsener.
De Garve – with quirky brews such as the Malt and Waltz Ale, Happy Monk Ale and Jolly Nun Belgian Ale, this Vaal Triangle based brewhouse is worth visiting for a tasting session.
Beer Lab – if you live in the Western Cape and are looking for a local supplier, give Beer Lab a shout. Their wesbite contains a lot of useful help for novice brewers.
Brew Craft – if you’re keen on starting your own beer brews or still spirit, they can assist with merchandise. They are based in Boksburg but can deliver countrywide if needs be.
DIY Beer – this handy site gives plenty of handy hints and also lists a number of home brewing suppliers.