Howzit Brew? Three spots for craft beer near Jozi

Posted by Lucy Corne on 29 June 2011

Howzit Brew? Part two of my Gauteng beer trip

It was with no small measure of reluctance that we dragged ourselves away from Cockpit in Cullinan after a two-hour lunch and a lengthy tasting session. Now we were headed west, to the Cradle of Humankind region. Our destination: Gilroy’s Brewery. As a British expat I often miss the finest thing from my motherland – the pubs – and was pleased to find Gilroy’s an excellent version of a British pub. No great surprise since owner and brewer Steve Gilroy grew up in Blighty. Sadly we didn’t get chance to sit down and chat – a shame since he seems like quite the character. We took a sample platter of the four brews – a pilsner and three English ales of varying strength – and sipped in the garden with its quirky signs and cheery vibe.

From here we headed north to the Ale House, a truly rural spot hidden away so that only the most enthusiastic ale fans will persevere in locating it. Owner Dirk van Tonder welcomed us with distressing news – the sixth annual Solstice Festival (curiously held 17 days before the solstice and I forgot to ask why) had virtually cleared him out of beer! Luckily there were some leftovers to be sipped and we sampled the much talked about Anvil Ale from the brewery of the same name in Dullstroom as well as Dirk’s “˜Feisty Blonde’, a barley wine/Imperial IPA style beer that’s a work in progress (or with its combination of honey and hops, perhaps a masterpiece?). We munched on delicious wood-fired pizza, dodged donkeys on trips to the bathroom (us, not them) and spent the evening chatting to other customers as though we’d all known each other for years. The craic (and the pizza) was so good I might even have been able to excuse a total absence of beer, though luckily I didn’t have to.

I awoke feeling fresh the next day thanks to my role as DD, though my beer-loving other half, Shawn, felt a little less spritely. After a breakfast of biltong there was really only one way to stave off the craft-brewed hangover (a milder strain than the store-bought version), so we headed to Copper Lake Breweries for a hair of the dog beer at 10am. Owner and brewmaster Brendan Watcham welcomed us and showed us around the breweries new and old. The area’s newest brewery is taking on a new face as the old 150-litre setup struggles to meet local demand for Brendan’s beers – within a month he’ll have capacity to brew up to 5,000 litres a day! The chocolate stout bubbling away in the brew kettle was sadly not ready for drinking, but we did sample a trio of beers that made me want to ditch the car keys – two ales and a roasty dark lager with hints of coffee.

To round off a perfect week, we ended with lunch at the Brazen Head pub in Fourways, an Irish-inspired tavern with an outdoor bar dedicated to craft beer. Here I ate my fourth pie of the week (a consolation prize to make up for the beer I couldn’t drink) and sipped samples of Drayman’s, Copperlake and Mitchell’s beer on draft. Gauteng Ale Trail, I will be back – and next time I’m leaving the car keys at home.

Read part one of our craft beer trip here.

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