Six of the best microbreweries in South Africa

Posted by Chris Davies on 7 February 2011 Tags:,

I’m one of those guys who think all microbreweries are great. It’s tough competing against the big guys and these small, often family run ventures, all need our support lest we drift too easily into the arena of the “˜monobeer’: lagers which owe their slightly different tastes principally due to the vessels we buy them in or the temperature we’re served them at. Microbreweries craft beers that are truly different, usually unique and give us some refreshing and much needed variety we’d otherwise be sorely lacking. Here are just six that have come to my attention recently and I think deserve a special mention.

Birkenhead

Great quality water is perhaps the single most important component of a superbly crafted brew. It’s said Stanford boasts some of the purest natural spring water in the world, making it an ideal location for Birkenhead, the Western Cape’s second largest microbrewery.

Drayman’s

Based in Pretoria, Drayman’s Microbrewery has been crafting fine beer since 1997 when enthusiast Moritz Kallmeyer started chasing his long-time dream. From humble beginnings in the garage of his Villieria home, Moritz is now producing some of Gauteng’s most well-known micro beers, including Weissbier, Altbier, bitter, ales and mead. Drayman’s is also the first SETA approved micro-brewing training institution in South Africa, so if the art of beer crafting is calling you, it’d be the perfect place to start.

Mitchell’s

South Africa’s largest microbrewery and second only to SABMiller, Mitchell’s Brewery was founded in 1983 in Knysna by beer lover Lex Mitchell. Since then the brewery has opened a branch in Cape Town, been sold to overseas interests, changed ownership repeatedly and is now safely back in South African hands and continuing to create some of the country’s most respected and well-known micro-brewed draught beer. Forester’s Lager and Bosuns Bitter are especially popular and with a low alcohol content of 3,6 per cent, they’re a good choice if you’re driving.

Jack Black

Originally located near the Overberg town of Hermanus, Jack Black Brewers moved its operation to Cape Town in 2008 in an effort to get closer to its market and reduce its carbon footprint. Like many microbreweries, Jack Black is focused on providing quality beer with none of the artificial colours and preservatives usually associated with modern mass production. Brewed in small batches, the popularity of the single label, a lager which is available in both draught and bottles, has seen it appearing with increasing regularity in the Cape’s bars and pubs.

Clarens Brewery

Clarens is a beautiful holiday dorp, but few may know the town also has a fine microbrewery in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. With four lovingly crafted ales, seasonal speciality beers and locally grown apple and cherry cider on tap, you’ll be pleased to know Clarens Brewery also offers free tasting to help you make up your mind. Just 5,000 litres are brewed each month, with half remaining on site for dedicated locals while the other half is bottled for local distribution.

Hops Hollow

Hops Hollow is a beautiful, family-run fusion of old style country inn and cosy pub-cum-microbrewery. Situated at the highest point of the Long Tom Pass, about halfway between the Mpumalanga towns of Ladenburg and Sabie, the brewery prides itself on the distinctiveness of its beer. With intriguing offerings like Diggers Draught, Old Bull Ale, Mac’s Porter and Blacksmith’s Brew, you’re sure to find a lot to like in this breathtaking historical setting perched high up the Mpumalanga Drakensberg.