5 awesome things to see and do at the Clarens Craft Beer Festival

Posted by Carly Barnes on 17 April 2013

Only three hours from Jozi, Durbs or Bloem is the quaint Free State village of Clarens. This small town has a homely offering of charming guest houses, restaurants, shops and its very own brewery. I set off on a sipping adventure to the annual Clarens Craft Beer Festival, to taste all that the popular weekend sanctuary has to offer.

1. Small town charm

As we climbed up a crumbling road in my poor Peugeot 207 towards town square, the quiet and picturesque town begun to hum with the sound of glasses chinking, motorbikes rumbling and conversations bubbling over with excitement for the annual Clarens Craft Beer Festival. We made our way to into town and walked passed a couple picking apricots in their garden, perhaps for a scrumptious breakfast before beer o clock, which, on Saturday 24 February, is 10:00 am.

The small alleys and streets are full of arty nooks and crannies where you can enjoy the atmosphere of small town country living. I can’t remember the last time I saw children queuing at the local cafee for sweeties and biltong, or a traffic sign that warns drivers to slow down for the geese.

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Home grown fruit and veggie garden are a common sight in Clarens, Free State

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

A shopfront tree decorates the side walk across the road from where the action is happening in a bustling town square

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Vegetables perched on the shelves of a quaint Clarens grocery shop

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Only in Clarens can you find a "Mind the Geese" roadsign

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Picturesque postbox in one of the the small town side roads

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Barefoot visitors to the town of Clarens, buying biltong at an old school Cafee

2. Comfort food ala Clarens

A spread of homely heartening restaurants varying from traditional German pub grubberies to bakeries, waffle-houses and cafés provide a real countryside welcome to any visitor to this town. Our first port of call was a spot called Clementine’s, whose staff were kind enough to squeeze us in last minute, on a very bustling weekend. The enchanting atmosphere was set when we entered a garden, lit with fairy lights and started on our first bottle of wine.  The al fresco food was a perfect start to our weekend… especially the rhubarb crumble!

We also had a slow but delicious dinner at The Post Office and a bountiful country breakfast at The Lazy Gecko Café which included savoury waffles with salmon and cottage cheese.

 3. Beerfest Bliss

Entrance to the Beerfest cost us all of R85.00 each and awarded us three tastings and an empty glass to fill with some of the wide selection of beers, ciders and wines. As an unseasoned beer drinker, I began my quest by asking which ale would be the most “girl friendly” and was steered toward a marquee of beer craftsmen plying their trade. I slid my token along the already beer drenched counter as a woman confidently filled me up to the taster line on my glass. I tasted an apple cider by Mitchells Brewery and it was smooth and sweet with a soury apple aftertaste. My next taster was slightly more adventurous as I was drawn towards a counter with large steel vats and the title: The Dog and Fig Brewery. I tasted the Aardige Ale that still had a sweet barley-ness to it, but with much more gusto and a fuller delivery. This is a real beer, I thought to myself. Whilst my partner in crime, Funeka, opted to explore the wines available, I teetered off to another brewery, Copperlake, for my third taster. I sampled the light ale and was reminded what a woes I actually am when it comes to beer. The bitterness ran along the sides of my tongue and though it was a bit heavy for my taste, the crisp flavours still broke through to give a refreshing finish.

Sampling beers all day is a tough job – but everyone was doing it. Some of my favourites were Clarens Brewery cherry and pineapple ciders and the Darling Beer Skull Crusher that carries the most unusually wonderful undertones of coriander. But my hands down show stopper ale of the day had to be SAB’s Willy Wonka chocolate ale, a delicious desert… you can’t stop at just one glass.

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Crisp cool beer being poured at the Clarens beer craft fest

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

A queue of thirty travellors await with empty glasses for a taste of craft beer

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

The first sip of the day using a taster token at Clarens craft beer fest

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Chocolatey spledour in this Willy Wonka ale, just one of many unique craft beer flavours at the Clarens craft beer fest


Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

A wide variety of delicious ale's and ciders on tap at Clarens craft beer festival

4. Shop Shabby Chic

A jar of stuffed olives, an antique treasure or new end table – whatever artsy memento or padkos parcel you are looking for, Clarens has a cobbled shop that sells it. What better way to spend the day than sashaying in and out of cute shops with unique thingy-ma-bobs in between beer tastings? My favourite spots were The Purple Onion with their wide selection of edible goodies, The Cherry Company with all things Cherry, Anja & Friends with the sweetest homemade gifts and décor and Mona Lisa Garment gallery where I picked up a vintage ring and some well needed sunnies.

 5. Festival Folk

Mense from all over SA made the countryside road trip to Clarens for the craft beer festival. Some were regulars, some were rookies and some were ridiculous. Walking along the pebbled pathways, I passed a group of hipsters in skinny jeans and boho sunglasses, a gathering of Harley motor heads adorning their leathers, a young family with sticky ice-creamed faces, a couple of barefoot hippies and an overwhelming number of frauleins, drindles and lads in lederhosen who had dressed up for the occasion. A mixed masala of thirsty travellers gathered together on one patch of grass for the very same reason – an appreciation for malted grain.

Somewhere amongst the crowd, sitting in whatever shade they could find were two sun-soaked and beer-laden Joburg city girls who had quenched their craving for a weekend adventure. It may have been my first trip to the pretty village, but after two days of festive atmosphere and true SA flavour, it most certainly will not be my last.

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Bikers come from all over SA to experience the Clarens craft beer fest

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Hippies perched on the grass enjoying a dynamic and energized atmosphere at Clarens craft beer fest

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Two Jozi city girls enjoying their piece of the friendly atmosphere at Clarens craft beer fest

Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Free State

Lederhosen and traditional beer dirndl dresses set the tone for festivities at the Clarens craft beer fest


Looking for a place to stay in Clarens? Check out Getaway Accomodation.

Related: Beer exploration- the Clarens Beer Festival

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