Celebrating South Africa’s craft brewing heritage
On September 24, we, at Home Food and Travel, celebrated Heritage Day with a beer tasting. This has become an annual event and craft brewers from around the country have been kind enough to send us their wares.
This year, we had three brewers in attendance and we had the pleasure of tasting over 50 brews from 17 local breweries. In no particular order, this is what we discovered.
Brewhaha Micro Brewery
Jeffreys bay, eastern cape
Located in Da Gama Road, Jeffreys Bay, this award-winning brewery also has a tap-room and restaurant.
Brewer, Marius Deetlefs, says that he did not discover beer, but that he did discover how to make great beer! We agree. These are the brews that we sampled:
Endless Summer – Blonde Ale – Alc. 5.1% IBU 15
Beautiful golden colour, refreshingly easy drinking, light bodied with a subtle fruitiness.
Stormy Seas – American IPA – Alc. 6.2% IBU 44
Marius says that his unique blend of American hops makes Stormy Seas a hoppy delight. It’s a medium-bodied ale that balances hoppiness with a caramel, malty flavour. It’s dry-hopped for a burst of citrus/flowery aroma.
Moonlit Beach – American Beach – Alc 5.1% IBU 15
It’s an unfiltered wheat beer, which is crisp and refreshing. Citrus aroma comes from using authentic American hops.
Jubilee – German Festive Beer – Alc 5.1 IBU 18
Doughy, rich, malty flavour balanced with a creamy sweetness. This beer is layered with flavour. It’s like drinking a taste of Christmas!
Hoogeberg Brewing Co.
Durbanville, Western Cape
MJ de Wit started developing wines in 2006 as a hobby and then transformed this into a profession. Having found much enjoyment and success from wine-making, he decided to start brewing too.
This wonderful brewery is located on the beautiful Signal Gun Wine Farm where you can taste their beers at the farms’ Ke-monate Restaurant. We had much pleasure sampling the following:
Ystervark Hybrid Lager
Rich gold in colour, this lager has a malty, floral and light hop aroma with a crisp, slightly malty flavour. It’s a full-bodied hybrid larger.
Like many Weiss beers, the Heffe Weiss has banana flavours followed by bubble-gum and a hint of clove. It is golden yellow and cloudy with a smooth yeast taste.
Bonte Bok – Five Crops
An unusual name for an unusual brew – we found this beer to be light with a fruity aroma. There are peach and apricots undertones. On the palate, it is crisp with a hint of sweetness.
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
Benn Koppen is located in Main Road, Walmer, PE. Owner, Jonathan Roche, does not do the brewing himself, but has developed a number of amazing recipes according to which his beer is brewed.
We have long been fans of the Benn Koppen brews and their Growler system is awesome. We tasted Jonathan’s latest creation, the Van James Larger.
Jonathan describes it as being crisp, smooth and refreshing. It is a session beer and as such is an easy drinking, light-bodied lager. We have found it to be great for drinking around the braai or while watching the Springboks klap the All Blacks.
Brauhauss am Damm
Rustenburg, North West
As their name suggests, this award-winning brewery follows the Bavarian ‘Reinheitsgebot’ brewing laws of 1516.
Located close to the Olifantsnek Dam, in the beautiful Magaliesberg, this brewery offers tastings and tours of their brewery and a lovely restaurant that serves, you guessed it, German cuisine. Ask for advice on pairing the beers with your meal!
Described on their website as a blond-coloured lager in the style of beer enjoyed in the famous beer halls of Bavaria, in other words a ‘Münchner Helles’, it’s light on the palate, with a crisp, slightly dry, but pleasantly soft finish. We found this to be an ideal session beer.
Much enjoyed by many at our beer tasting, this dark, full-flavoured beer has a cream-coloured head. This is a beer to enjoy slowly, mouth full by mouth full. We loved the coffee, caramel and roast malt flavours.
We noticed that this beer was a bit cloudy. This is due to the top fermenting yeast used and the higher protein content of the wheat malt. Their tasting notes said; “The fruity banana and spicy clove like flavours meet in harmony to give this ‘Weissbier’ its unique taste.”
This was the only Märzen at our tasting and so it attracted a lot of attention. It is in fact a lager brewed in the style favoured at the German Oktoberfest. A typical festival beer, it has Münchner and pilsner malt as the base malt as well as caramel malt for flavouring. We found it to be complex to be medium bodied, creamy and aromas of baked bread and a hint of sweetness. Delicious!
Robertson, Western Cape
I have been a big fan of this brewery ever since I visited their magnificent brewery, tasting and tap bar as well as their huge restaurant in the heart of Robertson a few years ago. Part of the Four Cousins Winery, they produce a range of easy drinking, flavoursome beers.
The Boet Larger is, to my mind, their best session beer with a gentle hop bitterness. If you are an ale lover, then the Boet Brewery will no doubt be of great enjoyment to you. They produce a Blonde, a Pale Ale, an IPA and an American Pale Ale.
The Boet Easy Blonde has a subtle malt sweetness and low hop with hints of pepper. The Boet Pale Ale comes with hints of caramel with a medium bitterness – another great session beer. The Boet English IPA has a full malty flavour with hints of citrus and spice. With a 5.5%ABV, the Boet American Pale Ale is their strongest brew and has hints of citrus and vanilla.
Richmond Hill Brewing Company
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
This enterprising brewery in the heart of the fashionable Baakens Valley has produced some classic session beers.
They have a great pub next to the brewery where you can also sample their Jane Doe – a Hard Lemonade, as well as their gin. Niall Cook, the brewer has just launched three rather interesting brews.
Phases of Jan – Winter Ale
This is perhaps the most amazing beer that I have tasted. It is full of flavour and I spent a full half-an-hour sipping away to discover its complex flavours. The cinnamon and vanilla are most distinctive and there are hints of orange peel too. Niall says that the high alcohol percentage (7% to be exact) and complexity of the ingredients lends itself to an increased aging capacity. Yip, put it in storage and enjoy on Christmas Day in a couple of years!
That Girl Oatmeal Stout and Wanderlust, a raspberry and cherry infused beer, are also new on the menu. Watch this space for more on these two beers.
The Little Brewery on the River
Port Alfred, Eastern Cape
Owned by brewer, Ian ‘Squire’ Cook, this regionally famous brewery offers their brews on-tap in the adjacent and very enjoyable Wharf Street Brew Pub. I have long been a fan of Ian’s brews with his Coin Ale being one of my all-time favourites.
This time, last year, we did a more in depth tasting of the Kowie Gold, Coin Ale and Squire’s Porter. This year, we were very pleased to discover Alfred’s Own Lager. This turned out to be a firm favourite at our tasting.
Ian describes it as a typical lager-style beer, with a clean and dry finish. With an ABV of 4.5%, this lager is versatile enough to range from ‘just a quick one’ to a session beer.
South Cape Breweries
Mossel Bay, Garden Route
The Glenhoff range of beers is brewed by South Cape Breweries, located in Mossel Bay, using the older Reinheitsgebot Bavarian brewing rules as well as the newer German Vorläufiges Biergesetz rules introduced in 1993.
Having done a tasting of Genhoff’s brews in the past, I know how good they are. Many of the other tasters had very good comments about the range.
We noted that the Glenhoff Lager was easy drinking and had a slightly lower level of bitterness than many of the other lagers.
The Belgian Crystal Weiss was full of flavour – banana, cumin, coriander, orange and cloves with a little hop bitterness. Glenhoff American Pale Ale is a medium-bodied beer that is easy-drinking with fruity notes and a slight caramel taste. I enjoy a good stout from time to time and find the Glenhoff Belgian Stout to be particularly enjoyable. Perhaps it is the chocolate and coffee flavours (two of my favourite tastes) that are so dominant in this brew.
The Durban Brewing Company
Durban North, KZN
This was my first opportunity to taste a ware from this brewery. Scott Hunter, the brewer, focuses exclusively on ales. I thoroughly enjoyed this tasting.
This is a NEIPA (a New England India Pale Ale) and the North Easter was the first NEIPA that I had tasted. Essentially, it is an IPA that has not been filtered resulting in a hazy beer that is orange in colour. It was delicious with cocktail of tropical hop flavours. Scott says that it is a great breakfast beer!
A great Amber Ale with plenty of body. It has a medium-high to high maltiness with medium to low caramel character. Brewed with a variety of hops, it has a medium hop bitterness, flavour and aroma. Delicious!
I don’t know the numbers, but I would guess that this is The Durban Brewing Company’s top seller as it is a great session ale. Described as an easy-drinking beer that is visually appealing and has no particularly dominating malt or hop characteristics. It is rounded and smooth on the palate.
Mad Giant Beer
Everything about this brewer shouts fun. From their name to their labels and packaging to their tasting bar, Mad Giant Beer is bright and positive.
Their tasting bar is located in the rejuvenated section of Fox Street in downtown Jo’burg and amalgamates with Urbanologi Restaurant. Private tastings and tours can be made by arrangement.
Thanks to their lively packaging and broad and exciting range of brews, Mad Giant beer attracted a lot of attention at our tasting.
Killer Hop – Pale Ale
This delicious pale ale was awarded the Best Pale Ale and overall Grand Champion at the African Beer Awards in 2018. We found that it filled the mouth with tropical flavours. This is perhaps due to its brew of four types of aromatic hops and a touch of malt.
Urban Legend – IPA
Another winner, the Urban Legend was awarded Silver at the South Africa National Beer Trophy in 2018. It’s described as being “bold and fruity and loaded with tastes of guava, papaya and mango for those who like it loaded and loud.”
Mad Giant Larger
A great session beer that has flavours of biscuit, honey, caramel and toffee and finished off with citrus and fruit hop aromas. It was well-liked by many of our tasters.
Electric Light – Weiss
This is an easy-drinking Weiss described as being classic and cool. The tasting notes accurately say, “Think of freshly baked homemade bread with a mix of floral, clove, citrus and fruity aromas.”
The Guzzler – Pilsner
Aptly-named, this is another lovely session brew. Our tasting notes said, “Smell the freshly cut lawn spritzed with lemon. Taste crisp refreshing bitterness balanced by the sweet pilsner malt.”
Stellenbosch Brewing Company
Located on a farm off the R304 just to the north of Stellenbosch, the Stellenbosch Brewing Company offers a tap-room to taste their wares and a restaurant with a menu that serves as a great accompaniment to their brews.
Their interesting ranges of beers have won numerous awards.
Mass Hoppiness – IPA – American
The tasting notes supplied were very descriptive. To quote; “This liquid euphoria will lift your soul up to a higher plane of existence and pleasure your taste buds with heaven-sent happiness. Feel the wind in your hair as you soar through double dry-hopped tropical and citrus bliss and prepare for a crash landing of hoppy headiness.” We couldn’t agree more!
Born Free Pale Ale – American Pale Ale
An assertive American-style Pale Ale with unique gooseberry and citrus notes, perfect balance of hops and smooth drinkability. It was well-liked by our tasters.
Bosch Weiss – Hefeweizen
A lightly hopped, traditional Bavarian wheat beer specially fermented with a unique yeast strain lending notes of banana, clove and coriander.
I particularly enjoyed this beer. It is a German-style dark lager with roasted malt and a white head. Boasting a rich ruby colour and full body, it has an ABV of 6.5% and is crisp and refreshing.
It’s a medium-bodied stout with a balanced, malty sweetness. Vanilla beans have been added during maturation, which has created lovely notes of caramel and smooth finish.
Friars Habit Craft Brewery
I had not tasted any of the Friars Habit brews before and looked forward to this tasting with anticipation. Three of their beers were unique at our tasting.
As this was the only beer of its type, it was popular amongst the tasters. This style of beer originated in San Francisco, in US, in the early 1900’s and is also known as a steam beer. It is in fact the hybrid of ale and a lager. We found it to be tasty with a clean, smooth finish with light caramel notes.
Irish Red Ale
The only Irish Red Ale of the day, we found it to be full of flavour with a medium moth feel. The malt was creamy smooth and had notes of caramel, raisins and dark plumbs. Our tasting notes said that it has English hops, which create the spice and grassy nose.
A classic Bavarian Hefenweizen, this wheat beer is delicately hopped and full of flavour with a slight sweetness.
Friar’s Rabbit IPA
The brewer says; “Friar’s Rabbit IPA stays true to its name: It’s hoppy!” A well-balanced and hoppy IPA without excessive bitterness, this IPA is brewed with a selection of international hops including German, South African, American and British.
Karoo Kraft Bru
Paarl, Western Cape
Located at the Simonsvlei Winery, on the Old Paarl Road, this brewery is managed by Jannie Underhay and Ockie Nel.
They clearly have a passion for the outdoors, which is reflected in the labelling and naming of their beers. Karoo Kraft beers are widely distributed around the country and we can recommend that you add them to your next shopping list.
The Kudu – Larger
A session beer in all respects – easy to drink, best when chilled and tasty. The marketers at the brewery describe it as “majestic as the Kudu”.
The Jackal – India Pale Ale
If you are an ale lover, then we suggest that you sip on The Jackel. The brewers say that it is not for the faint-hearted; however, if you’re an ale connoisseur, you will like this brew.
The Oryx – Weiss
Weiss beers usually have plenty of aromas and a mix of flavours. Our tasting notes said that this beer is fruity and a great thirst-quencher.
The Impala – American Pale Ale
The Americans and South Africans, in general, have a similar appreciation for beer. We want a thirst-quencher that can also be enjoyed while watching sport or around a fire. This is that beer!
Hermanus, Western Cape
This brewery was started by James Rattle and, together with his wife, Di, and brewer, Richard Hammond, have produced an award winning beer, Old Harbour Lager.
James says, “Our lager is brewed with Overberg barley and southern hops, and has a clear yellow-rose colour. It is an easy-drinking, session beer. It has a balanced depth of flavour with a crisp, passion fruity smooth finish. It is unpasteurized and has no additives, so it’s pure goodness!”
We found the Old Harbour Lager to be very pleasant and it is not surprising that it won a Gold medal for the top lager at the National Beer Trophy Awards two years in a row.
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
Karl Schlaphoff is one of the most passionate brewers I have met. He loves to experiment and currently has over 52 different brews on his menu. In addition, he produces everything from easy-drinking session beers to complex European Sour Ale and a variety of Saison beers.
We have written about his tap-room and brews elsewhere. At this tasting, we sampled his latest session beer.
Settle the Dust
This is a Belgain Pale Ale that Karl created for drinking around the braai. It has a relatively high alcohol content at 5.5%, but is smooth, light, moderately malty and very tasty. Karl explained that it’s not a traditional Belgian beer, because he uses American hops.
Lions River Brewery
Lions River Craft Brewery is located on a farm mid-way between Howick and the well-known village of Nottingham Road. This family-owned brewery has a tap-room for tasting, offers tours of the brewery and has a restaurant on site.
Ronald McClelland, the brewer, produces a variety of German beers and ales. A great place to visit!
I love festive beers because you never know what to expect. In this case, Ronald has created a lager based festive beer that is amber in colour. The nose is of freshly-baked bread and on the mouth, it is smooth with a hint hops. It was well-liked by all.
I saved one or two of the beers from the tasting to enjoy on my own and at my leisure. This was one of them. I spent a wonderfully productive Friday afternoon writing this article while sipping on this delightful brew. This rich and complex Pilsner has a complex floral and spicy aroma followed by a crisp, rich complex maltiness with dry to medium finish.
This was another of my Friday afternoon refreshments. A very tasty ale with a distinct citrus aroma, and a hint of caramel. The taste is wholesome with a clean, smooth hoppiness and a woody, earth quality. It is full in the mouth.
Bridge Street Brewery
Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
This highly popular brewery and restaurant is located in Baakens Valley, in Port Elizabeth. Lex Mitchell of Mitchell’s Brewery fame started this brewery and sold it on.
He remains a consultant to the current owners, who made some significant improvements to the restaurant and tap-room.
Celtic Cross Pilsner
This award-winning beer has long been one of my favourite beverages.
Easy-drinking, this pale medium-strength pilsner has a pronounced hoppy taste. With an ABV of 4.3% it is not to strong and is the perfect refreshment for an afternoon of watching sport with your friends in the Bridge Street pub.
Black Dragon Double Chocolate Stout
This is one of the tastiest beers around. Our tasters agreed that this brew is best drunk slowly with each mouthful savoured. The flavours are intense and the chocolate taste comes through strongly as do hints of coffee. It’s full and velvety in the mouth, a real pleasure to drink!
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