So, apparently it’s 2016 already. We’ve managed to get further into the future than Doc and Marty ever did, which is pretty cool, I’d say. I don’t know about you, but I saw some massive changes in the South African beer industry in 2015: quality improved, scores of new breweries opened, existing breweries upped their game and in many cases upscaled their equipment – all magnificent to behold. I thought it would be nice to do a round-up of the year, so here are my highs of the 2015 SA beer scene. Please share yours in the comments section below.
Best new brewery
With around 50 breweries opening around the country in 2015, it’s tough to pick the best. Over in the Eastern Cape, St Francis Brewing Co brought beer to the Sunshine Coast while Sabie provided a third place for micro ales in Mpumalanga. Up in Gauteng, Stimela lauched on a small scale, while Hazeldean impressed judges at the Craft Champs with their Vienna Lager.Here in the Western Cape, we enjoyed the big hops of Aegir, the crisp clean brews from Drifter and the weird and weirder ales coming out of Afro-Caribbean. But in the end there could be only one winner: the little brewery that could. Actually they won pretty much everything last year, with some impressive scores at the Craft Champs..
Winner: Brewers Co-op
Best new beer
Some of the big guys brought out great beers this year. Devil’s Peak’s Pale Ale became widely available in both bottles and cans, CBC’s Imperial IPA got a few dry-hopping tweaks and became sensational (note, I’ve upped the rating to four hops out of five). I could have sipped pints and pints of Hazeldean’s Vienna lager (well actually I did and had the hangover to prove it) and also enjoyed a few bottles of Stickman’s IPA. For me though, the winner became a brew I turned to pretty much every time I sat down at Banana Jam (which is fairly often), a brew that’s light and easy-drinking but still packed full of hops and awesome…
Winner: Aegir Pale Uil
Best beer event
Alas, I missed out on Clarens this year, though I heard it was a particularly good edition of the fest. As ever I enjoyed CTFoB and as ever, half of Gauteng enjoyed Jozi Craft. An underdog hit was the Woodstock Winter Beer Fest (sadly missed that too – babysitting woes) and I can’t mention beer happenings without a shameless plug for my advanced-level brewing course, Brewing Beyond the Basics. But the stand-out beer event was not a fest at all but a conference – a coming-together of beer geeks from around South Africa, who wanted to see and meet one of the biggest beer geeks of them all talking about his all-consuming passion…
Winner: Beer Boot Camp
Blog comment of the year
First of all, I’d like to tip my hat to Jonathan Carter, the top commenter on this blog for the second year in a row. I love it when you guys get involved in the posts – particularly when you disagree… Here are a few of my favourite comments from 2015:
Roly the Beer Geek: “Where’s my hoverboard?”
Craig (Foulkes Brew): “Anything that makes us compete to brew better beer is always a good thing.”
Winner: Dean Langkilde: “IMHO you can’t call yourself a craft bar if you do not have at least one IPA on tap.”
Most popular post
While we’re talking blog, in case you’re interested, these were the most popular posts from 2015: It seems you all like free stuff as the 12 Days of Beermas comp got plenty of views. You’re also all really interested in everything SAB is doing – my review of Castle Milk Stout Chocolate was published in 2014 but was still among the top five most viewed posts in 2015. On the smaller side, Aegir’s tap room opening garnered plenty of interest, and you’re obviously all keen to get into the beer scene as Brewing Beyond the Basics was a very popular page. The winner though, proves that however much we want to support the small guy, we’re still really interested in knowing what his big brother is doing…
Winner: SAB launches Newlands Spring
Other than SAB launching another “small batch” brand and SAB launching Carling Blue Label and SAB bringing out new packaging for Pilsner Urquell – oh, and SAB merging with the mighty AB-Inbev, there was actually a little news from the SA craft beer scene. Darling launched its brand new shiny brewery at their tap room, with a range of brand new beers, meaning you can finally drink a Darling beer that was actually brewed in Darling! Copperlake also opened a rather awesome brewpub, as did Afro-Caribbean, while in Durban, That Brewing Company moved into a spectacular venue near the train station. A new, and if I do say so myself, rather marvellous book on the South African beer scene was launched in November. But, on this blog at least, the news you seemed to be most interested in/riled up by was the legal battle going on up in the Cederberg. With 46 days to go in their crowdfunding campaign, the ladies were already half way towards reaching their goal, thanks to awesome folk like you!
And that is it – a quick(ish) round-up of the year that was 2015. Coming up next, a look at what lies ahead in 2016…