There’s something exciting happening in Cape Town’s Harfield Village. It’s a coming together of locally brewed stout and homemade coconut ice cream. It’s a constantly rotating range of craft beers in half a dozen styles. It’s pork ribs basted in Everson’s cider or a feta prawn pasta served with the new Jack Black Pilsner. As the craft beer boom quietly asserts itself across South Africa, it is arriving at Banana Jam Café in the vociferous manner of a rugby team after a few pints of Hazard 10. And it is awesome.
Owner Greg Casey is passionate about beer and his contagious passion spills over into every inch of Banana Jam. It all began six months ago when craft beers in bottles started to appear on the menu. Monday nights signalled the coming together of three of my favourite things – burgers, pizza and fine beer – with food discounted to encourage diners to splurge on the good stuff. Then Greg spent a month sipping and surfing along the West Coast of the States, sampling dozens of beers and experiencing the kind of awakening less beer-centric travellers might seek out on the Camino de Santiago or at an Indian Ashram.
And for this pilgrimage we should all be truly grateful, for Banana Jam is now the unofficial headquarters of the South African Beer Revolution – or at least of its Cape Town branch. Alongside the perhaps more familiar SAB beers, you’ll find an homage to microbrew in the form of eight draft taps. “There are bars in the US with 125 beers on tap and I thought, I have to do this,’ says Greg. “I was originally going for six and now I wish I’d done 10. I could easily do 15 different beers and never worry about the beer going stale,” he beams as waiters pass by with tray after tray filled with craft ale. A few brews are permanent fixtures, others appear as guests beers and are guzzled with gusto at a pace that makes me want to drop by every day to see what’s new on tap.
Many customers begin with the superb tasting platter – six samplers for R45 – and quickly move on to a pint of Jack Black Lager, Boston Breweries’ Van Hunks Pumpkin Ale or the hop-filled loveliness of Triggerfish’s Ocean Potion, making its debut on the Banana Jam taps earlier this month. “We must be getting through about 350 litres of craft beer a week,” says Greg. “And women are drinking beer too – especially the ales.” But Banana Jam is not all about liquid refreshment – the menu has also taken on a particularly boozy air, with an ever-changing array of specials cooked with beer plus a constant list of suggested pairings for the menu’s permanent fixtures. It’s so exciting to see beer pairing embraced in Cape Town and I look forward to educating my palate in the nuances of hops “˜n’ food.
October is Craft Beer Month at Banana Jam, so get there quickly to enjoy beer-inspired cuisine including a dish that I for one would choose as my last meal – steak in beer and bacon sauce. And don’t miss the smooth and scrumptious Banana Jam Cream Ale, brewed specially for the bar. In the coming weeks look out for an ever-expanding beer menu, slider and beer pairings and with a bit of luck, guest beers from across the country. Oh, and look out for me as well – I sense I’ll soon be a fixture as permanent as the taps I’m already so very attached to.
Banana Jam Cafe, 157 2nd Avenue, Harfield Village (Kenilworth), Cape Town, tel 021 674 0186