Craft beer is taking the world by storm. With over 135 craft breweries in South Africa, it is evident that the battle between macro and microbreweries is no secret. I am delving into the world of craft beer to find the top five microbreweries in South Africa. I have pointed out my favourite craft beers from each to help you become the ultimate hop-head.
Firstly, let’s find out exactly what makes a beer a craft beer
While it is easy to spot a craft beer because of the trendy packaging, it is difficult to define what makes a beer a craft beer because there are so many characteristics that differentiate them.
Traditionally craft beer is made by small business owners who maintain strict standards in both the brewing of beer and the ingredients used. Craft brewers take pride in adapting and developing new beer styles or adding a twist to traditional beers. As a result, craft beers are known for their unique taste and mix of traditional and nontraditional ingredients.
More strictly speaking, the Brewers Association have stipulated three requirements for a beer to be labelled ‘craft’:
- Small: The brewery’s annual production must be less than 6 million barrels.
- Independent: The brewery must have less than 25% owned by a non-craft brewer.
- Traditional: More than 50% of the total beverage alcohol volume must come from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and methods.
Why do beer drinkers like craft beer?
- It tastes better.
- It offers more choices.
- It is seen as a healthier option.
- It is manufactured by local businesses.
- It has higher alcohol content.
The best brews for a bru:
Blood Serpent, Desert Dragon, Thunder Bird, Black Mist, and my personal favourite, Rogue Pony are just some of the names of the incredible craft beers created by Darling Brew. The very names attest to the creativity involved in the art of beer making. This award winning microbrewery is one of my favourites because it is devoted to supporting conservation, with each beer in their range dedicated to an endangered species. I enjoy the Slow Beer on a hot day but, keep an eye out for their seasonal editions.
‘Analog Bier for a Digital World’ is a term And Union use to describe their modernist Bavarian craft beer. Some beer drinkers think that beer giants have forgotten how to be passionate and have created an industry that is far removed from its heritage. That is why And Union is dedicated to creating quality beer by brewing the old-fashioned way with nothing more than barley, yeast, hops and water. The Steph Weiss wheat beer is a perfect example of And Union’s philosophy of traditional methods and natural ingredients. The obvious banana, vanilla and clove flavour gives this beer the perfect balance of sweet, creamy and bitter. The Steph Weiss is perfect for an afternoon picnic with sandwiches, sushi or salads.
Cape Brewing Company (CBC)
CBC have become one of the most popular craft beers in South Africa. The secret to their success is brewing without compromise, in the spirit of the Reinheisgebot (German Beer Purity Law of 1516). CBC have gone to great lengths to source both local and international grains for beer making, occasionally seeking unique hops from the ancient beer-making parts of the world. However, they claim that their main advantage is the natural spring water of Paarl Mountain. Did you know that it takes 6 litres of water to produce 1 litre of beer? If you love fruity beers, I recommend the Krystal and Amber Weisbiers. While Weisbier is considered breakfast beer in Germany, these beers are perfect for a relaxed afternoon braai and they are best paired with sausages or boerewors.
From their flagship pre-Prohibition style Brewer’s Lager to their award winning Lumberjack amber ale, Jack Black’s Brewing Company have brought a distinctive American craft beer culture to the Cape. The brewery was named after the American Prohibition Era brewer who moved his brewery to Canada and smuggled the beer across the Hudson River into America. Their Brewer’s Lager is based on his recipe. While this lager is delicious, and I love the retro packaging design, my favourite beer from Jack Black’s has to be the Skeleton Coast IPA.
Like the landmark in Cape Town, Devils Peak was created to remain memorable among those who experience it. Exhibiting great views of the mountain, the brewery has become known for their Belgian, American and English style ales. Their aim is to educate all beer drinkers of the possibilities and potential of craft beer. This is what makes Devils Peak perfect for anyone who is new to the world of craft beer. To get a taste of everything, I recommend getting the mixed case from League of Beers for only R449.