Almost two months ago, Finweek editor Marc Ashton came up with the idea of doing a cover story on the sudden explosion of craft breweries across South Africa. I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to write the story. However, I had one condition. I didn’t want to write the story from my desk. I wanted to do the story justice by actually visiting as many micro-breweries as possible in order to do a proper, in-depth feature. Now most editors would have seen this as a mere ruse to drink as much beer as possible at the company’s expense. Fortunately, Marc is someone who always sees the good in people and had no idea what I was up to. The result was that I got to travel to Cape Town where I met with Darling Brew, Jack Black Beer, Boston Breweries, Triggerfish Brewing and Devil’s Peak Brewing Company. In between many, many fine beers I manged to interview the brains behind these businesses and why craft brewing is taking off in SA.
On my return to Gauteng I also interviewed Steve Gilroy of Gilroy brewpub in Muldersdrift, Brendan Watcham of Copperlake Brewing, Andre de Beer of The Cockpit Brewhouse and a host of others whom I met at the Jozi Craft Beer Fest. I also visited Clarens where I met Stephan Meyer, owner of the Clarens Brewery, probably the finest example of a working brewpub that I came across. While some have expressed surprise at our choice to run a cover story on beer, a reading of the story will show that there’s a strong entrepreneurial element to it. While any craft brewer will tell you that passion is the main reason that they brew, almost all of them are either already turning that passion into profit or harbour ambitions of doing so.
Finally, if you haven’t yet sampled a craft beer, do yourself a favour and organise a day trip to one of the boutique beer producers sprouting up around the country. To borrow a phrase from Steve Gilroy, South Africans don’t have a beer culture. They have a light lager culture. The time has come to change that.
Follow Garth Theunissen on Twitter at @Garthpunk