Last Saturday South African celebrated National Beer Day (SANBeerDay). An amazing initiative started by community member Lucy Corne in 2017 as a way to celebrate beer and all the wonderful passionate folk that have been pushing our industry forward. This year saw over 100 events around the country and it really felt like the beer community was coming of age and have one big party. We asked The Cultured to reflect on the last decade of beer progress.
Troye May, the creative spirit behind the popular podcast #Beerstime has probably tasted the biggest variety of beer than anyone else in SA over the last five years. He has been one of the driving forces behind the evolution through his podcast and recently finished documentary Brewing The Republic .
Trevor Gernholtz attended Stellenbosch Brewing Co’s Mass Collaboration Event where 75 different people had a hand in brewing a celebratory beer.
I believe what Trevor is quoting Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head and is inferring that the beer industry is full of fantastic characters that share a passion for the world’s oldest and greatest beverage. The community in South African is relatively small but oh so vibrant. Trevor added, ” Hooking up with other good beer friends around the country showed how solidly the community has gelled”.
Mike Hall’s who also attended the mass brew reflected on his journey. Coming from the UK he laments the quality of variety of beer in SA in 2011. ” I very much fell out of love with beer. Beers were boring and I mostly just drank Castle Lite”.
He accredits his revived love for beer to the a wave of micro-breweries opening from 2011 and home brewing. Mike notes that he, “was amazed at much assistance the brewers from all these new craft breweries were willing to give”.
Mike brewed an out-there-beer for the event, a Ginger Bread Session Summer Ale and was complimentary on other beers on offer that day including, Shackleton’s Kolsch, Sorghum Gose from Stellies and Little Wolf, Imperial stout by Matthew Hurst and the Pina Colada Beer which was a collab between Stellies and Scotland’s Fierce. All these collaborations and sharing of ideas and knowledge certainly is a theme of what is becoming a more mature community and will only drive the industry forward. Beer is only good when you share it.
Stefan Wiswedel , Little Wolf, was also at the event, and noticed that consumers palates are maturing and through exploration are starting to be very receptive to different styles. “There is a growing hunger for new and interesting drinks and most of all, people are recognising quality and going after it. If you can consistently make great quality drinks, people will trust you and follow you down the rabbit-hole”.
Lucy Corne of course got stuck in herself on SANBeerDay and enjoyed a wide variety of beers on her Brewery hop around Cape Town.
Lucy came to settle in SA permanent at the end of 2010 and has been drinking and writing about beer in South Africa ever since. She remembers how she use to get excited about getting Jack Black or Boston lager from PnP. ” The growth in such a short time is nothing short of remarkable”, observed Lucy. “The Gees on Saturday was amazing, both in person and across the various social media platforms”.
Carel Van Heerden only joined the craft beer scene about 2 and half years ago. “I grew up with beers of our fathers. Castle, Hansa, Amstel, Black Label. That was it. Lager as a style, back then, did nothing for me”.
Carel’s first experiences of micro brewed beer was Gilroys in Gauteng which he remembers to be something different but due to its lack of availability tended to turn towards Red Heart Rum. He then recites his fist IPA experience, “It took the enamel right off my teeth”. He recently tried 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze which made him realise that, “good beer has been around for hundreds of years and that not only the current trends should define beer culture”.
He forsees that the industry will continue to experiments with new beer trends and revived historical examples that blend, “extremes into a symphony of old and new, complex and subtle flavors all dancing on your palate”.
He does however see hurdles in the road including distribution, consistency and targeted marketing.
We certainly are going for a challenging time in our relatively brief beer revival. However similar slumps occurred in the States. What revived their industry was a mix of drive and innovation to capture the imaginations of not just the current beer market but far beyond that. This is a lesson local brewers should head. Now go out there and make Milkshake IPA’s and expect all the boys ( And Girls) to come to your yard.
One thing SANBeerDay taught us is that strength comes from being in a community with shared ideas and knowledge. This is evident in the beer community and long may it last. Let’s also not be too harsh on ourselves as the industry has made rapid progress from the land of lager to a rich tapestry of beer variety that excites the imagination and taste buds.
What’s next? Well that is entirely up to you.
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Website coming soon with blogs and podcast with industry experts and passionate home fermenters. The journey has just began.