Tasting beer on Heritage Day - A variety of delicious brews that tantalize the taste buds

BY GRAEME LUND - OCTOBER 6, 2017

In recent years, my taste buds have been on an amazing journey of discovery. The journey began in a friend’s workshop, where he introduced me to his home brewed beers. My initial reaction was – aaagh, disgusting! 

My reaction to olives, whisky and wine all started in much the same manner, but now I consider them all to be essential to my existence.

Having only known the mass-produced lagers and been heavily indoctrinated by powerful advertising campaigns, I, like many other lager-swillers, knew nothing of the delights of Ales, Porters, Indian Pale Ales, Weiss and all the other delicious brews that tantalize the taste buds.

My interest in craft beer has grown almost as fast as this cottage industry has grown. Over the past seven years, home brew has matured to craft brew and has allowed so many brewing enthusiasts to turn professional and live their dream.

Beer has been brewed for over 5 000 years and was, in some parts of the world, the staple beverage of the day. Most of the older beers, particularly the ales, were very healthy with a low alcohol content and, having been through a boiling process, had much of the harmful bacteria removed.

Did you know that most craft beers have only four ingredients, namely a grain, hops, yeast and water - yet no two craft beers taste the same. The reason for this is because the grain and, particularly, the hops can be very different. 

Any grain can be used in the malting process, but barley is the most popular. The taste of the barley can also vary depending on the soil and climate in which it is grown. The growing of the hops flower has become an art in its own right, with farmers competing to produce new and delightful flavours.

Some brewers pride themselves on using fresh spring water or water from bubbling mountain streams. Hence, a seemingly simple recipe has now become more complex and, as some brewers do, by adding spices or herbs or any other taste intensive product, the variety of brews is now limitless.  And so is my desire to taste them all!

Home Food and Travel traditionally celebrates Heritage Day with a party for staff, customers and suppliers - and 2017 has been no different. This year, we chose to have a beer tasting as our theme and so invited brewers from around the country to send us their wares.

Fifteen brewers responded with 73 different brews! Unfortunately, there is just not enough space in one edition of Home Food and Travel to publish our thoughts, comments and delights on all these brews, so keep an eye out for future editions for more on our tasting.

So, here is a sample of what we tasted…

 

Mjölnir - Anvil Ale BrewpubDullstroom

One of the great off-spins of the micro-brewing industry is that many of the breweries have established pubs of their own, where you can sample and enjoy their wares.  This is just one of those breweries and a place I thoroughly enjoyed visiting.

Pronounced miol-neer or m yole near, and meaning Thor's Hammer (think hammer and anvil), this unusual Indian Pale Ale is a top-fermented, pale honey-coloured beer with a low malt character.

Brewer, Theo de Beer, says this of his beer, “We have listened to our hop-head clients and formulated this beer with a complete lack of balance. A lighter body and a drier finish (than regular IPA's), accentuates the bracing hop bitterness, flavour and aroma.”

Our team’s general consensus was that this beer was unusual, but thoroughly enjoyable and a must-try for any enthusiast.

 

Blaauwkrantz Porter - Featherstone Brewery, Grahamstown

Our tasters at Home Food and Travel have been big fans of this brewery for some time now, but this was our first tasting of the Blaauwkrantz Porter.

Brewer, Mark Riley, describes this as a “sweet, smooth-drinking porter with liquorice, caramel, and warm spice citrus notes. Hop character takes a back seat to the dark crystal malts, which are subtly supported by the addition of coriander and orange. Its full-bodied nature and robust alcohol content makes this beer and excellent dessert or after-dinner beer”.

We couldn’t have described it better and this porter is as well-liked amongst us as their other brews.

 

Tiddly Tortoise - The Sedgefield Craft Brewery, Sedgefield

Another brewery with a delightful setting - this is one of my favourite spots on a Saturday morning at the Sedgefield Market. Yip, I have no inhibition about drinking these delicious brews before the sun has climbed to its zenith.

Tiddly Tortoise, what a delightful name! This is an American Pale Ale described by brewer, Tony Hunter, as; “A style of beer with a strong hoppy flavour showing a citrusy American hop taste. Medium on bitterness with a slightly dry finish; refreshing and hoppy, with sufficient supporting malt.”

One of our tasters said that this was his favourite of the day and that he would be spending more time in Sedgefield in the near future!

 

Big Red Ale - Saggy Stone, Robertson

We chose to try this ale as it is a favourite of its brewers - brothers, Adrian and Phillip Robinson.

This is an Irish Ale, which produced a lot of comments from our team, who, after many of the dark porters and amber ales, where surprised to see the red colouring of this, um, red ale.

The brewers describe this as a great beer to enjoy with a tasty burger or steak and that the initial bitter hit is replaced with a roasted nut aftertaste.

Interestingly the ladies on our team declared this to be their favourite of the afternoon.

Saggy Stone is another brewery with its own delightful pub and beer garden.

 

Patience Ale - Dockside Brewery, Port Elizabeth

There are few brewers as passionate as Karl Schlaphoss, and certainly none that I can think of, who experiment as much.

The Patience Ale is perhaps Karl’s most conventional brew and our team found it an easy drinking as it has no overwhelming flavours. This is a brew that can be enjoyed in quantity around a slow braai on a long afternoon.

Karl describes it as, “An approachable, sessionable ale with interesting, slightly fruity and earthy hop flavours.”

 

Coin Ale - The Little Brewery on the River, Port Alfred

One of the oldest micro-breweries on this list, the Little Brewery on the River started off as the Coelacanth Brewery in the ‘90’s before being taken over by present brewer, Ian Cook. 

Situated in one of the oldest buildings in the Eastern Cape - along Wharf Street next to the Kowie River and adjacent to the excellent Wharf Street Brew Pub, this brewery, to my mind, is among the finest micro-breweries in the country.

I do not profess to be a knowledgeable taster and, although I like experimenting with tastes, I find the Coin Ale to be a delicious and refreshing beer that I can consume again and again without my taste buds being overpowered and my stomach being bloated.

Many of my fellow tasters agree with me on this score.

 

Jane Doe - Richmond Hill Brewing Co, Port Elizabeth

This is not a beer, but a ‘hard lemonade’. The RHBC’s most famous brew is the Car Park John of which we have written and described in the past, and as tasty and easy drinking as it is, we chose to throw the unusual Jane Doe into the mix.

Brewer, or in this case, mixer, Niall Cook, says that they make their own lemonade to which they add selective white spirits. 

The RHBC is owned by the Repton family, who also own some of the best pubs in the Friendly City. Jane Doe is perfect for enjoying on a hot afternoon after a swim in the ocean.

Our lady tasters also thoroughly enjoyed the Jane Doe.

 

Festival Pale - Long Mountain Brewery, Robertson

Not only is Roberston home to some great vineyards and distillers, but also to a numAber of micro-breweries too!

Festival is an apt moniker for this Blonde Ale as it was very tasty and easy drinking. We tasted a number of brews from the Long Mountain Brewery, but this came out tops.

 

Easy Blonde - Boet Beer, Robertson

I am partial to blondes and particularly enjoyed the Easy Blonde and so did most of the other tasters.

Yes, I can see the smirk on your face, so to clear your dirty mind, let me elaborate. Blonde Ale, also called Golden Ale, is a straw-coloured ale that has moderate bitterness and maltiness. The style is closely related to traditional mass market lagers, and was originally intended as a way of transitioning mass market consumers to craft beers.

The Boet Brewery is situated in the awesome, pub-restaurant-wine-tasting Four Cousins building in Robertson and is not to be missed.

 

Weiss - Glenhoff, Mossel Bay

Glenhoff is the craft brewery brand of South Cape Breweries. A larger concern than some of the other breweries in this article, Glenhoff prides itself on brewing according to the 500-year-old Bavarian tradition of Reinheitsgebot, which ensures that beers use natural ingredients of the highest standard.

Weiss is a German recipe that stipulates that at least 50% of the grain is wheat, which produces a light-coloured or white (Weiss) beer. Weiss must be top-fermented. Specialized strains of yeast are also used, which give Weiss a strong taste of cloves.

I must say, Weiss is not to everybody’s taste, but every one of us on the panel enjoyed the Glenhoff Weiss.

 

Woodcutter Saison Ale - Red Bridge Brewing Company, Knysna

Darren Berry, the brewer at Red Bridge Brewing Company, had this to say about the Saison Ale; “This is a refreshing Belgian farmhouse style ale with subtle notes of coriander and Seville orange and a crisp, effervescent finish.”

We found this brew to be refreshing and easy drinking and it was one of the favourites of the day.

Saison is French for ‘season’ and this beer is seasoned with coriander and orange, which give it a zesty and spicy taste.

 

Cockney Liz Wild Card - Sabie Brewing Company, Sabie

Named after a famous prostitute on the old gold diggings, we found this to be an easy drinking beer with a delightful aftertaste that comes from marula pulp that has been infused into this session beer.

The brewer describes it as the perfect blend of crystal clear water from the headwaters of the Sabie River, combined with pale malted barley, to produce a clear, crisp and well-balanced beer with a distinctive marula flavour.

Located in the historic Glynn House, this brewery also has an adjacent restaurant.

 

Blind Mole Pils - Wild Clover Breweries, Stellenbosch

Set on a farm just outside Stellenbosch, with an attractive pub and beer garden, Wild Clover has named all its beers after the critters that live in the area.

We enjoyed the Blind Mol Pils, which brewer, Ampie Kruger, describes as a “refreshing lager brewed with the revered Saaz Hop that reveals fresh tropical flavours and a well-balanced bitterness that hits all the right notes”.

 

Gold Ale - Emerald Vale Brewery, Cintsa

This is a favourite of one of our tasters and I could see the reluctance in his eye of having to share these brews with others.

The Gold Ale is a Red Ale, which brewer, Chris Heaton, describes as having a full body with a hint of roasted malt giving it a golden colour. The result is a rounder, fuller and slightly sweeter robust all-year-round beer taste.

Emerald Vale, as the name suggests, has a beautiful setting on the Wild Coast and a delightful pub to match.

 

Cape Kraken Belgian Amber Ale - Mountain Brewing Company, Worcester

This is a Gold Medal winner in the 2015 South African National Beer Trophy (SANBT) awards and is a hybrid between a Belgian and Amber Ale, and is conditioned in traditional 'Alt Bier' style.

The MBC is situated in the Klipbokkop Mountain Reserve and draw their water from nearby mountain springs.

They have a collection of fantastic brews with delightful names such as Load Shed Lager and Black or White Hy Smaak Oraait Vanilla Porter, all of which we tasted, but it was the Cape Kraken that we enjoyed the most.

Contact Franchisee Liandé Barnard
Eastern Cape contact number 086 163 6845
Eastern Cape email address exec4@ricochetpublishing.co.za