The very first article I ever had published on beer in South Africa featured the Nottingham Road Brewing Company. It was 2006 and I had just spent some time travelling along the KZN Ale Trail. Sadly, most of the other breweries I visited have since closed and and while others have opened in their place, Notties has more than weathered the storm. It has grown and thrived, becoming the grand dame of brewing in KZN.
I was completely taken with Notties from the get-go, with its quaint English-style pub, and the fact that you can ditch your car keys and sleep over at the adjoining, legendary Rawdons hotel. And those robust, warming ales, perfect for the mist-shrouded Midlands region, just sealed the deal.
Since my first sip of the alliteratively-named ales, the range has expanded more than twofold. Added to the Tiddly Toad Premium Lager, Whistling Weasel Pale Ale, Pye-Eyed Possum Pilsner and Pickled Pig Porter, there’s now an English-style IPA (Tipsy Tiger), the Wobbling Wombat Summer Ale and the newest addition, the Blotto Badger Blonde Ale. Notties has always taken the time-honoured, traditional approach to brewing, but in recent years a couple of flavoured brews have also joined the fold – Swinging Samango Mango Ale and Pickled Pig Cappuccino Porter, a new take on the old favourite.
More than just a mascot, their iconic pig was inspired by a pet that once roamed the grounds of Rawdons Estate. As a piglet, there was no problem with patrons feeding the brewery mascot, but as his snout reached table height and people’s pub lunches were in danger of being snaffled, warnings of ‘beware the pig’ began to appear. These days, its likeness graces t-shirts, bar mats and aprons in the brewery shop and the Notties ‘Pig Rig’ travels to nearby beer festivals to dispense pints of Pickled Pig Porter.
The Pig Rig won’t have to travel far for their next major event, though. Notties will be hosting Africa Brew, an annual get-together of brewers and beer lovers, who meet for a weekend of workshops, seminars, tastings and the ever-popular brewers’ roast. The event takes place from November 5—7, with tickets costing R250.
These days, scores of beer lovers fill Rawdons Hotel each weekend, but staying in business since 1996 couldn’t have been easy. This beery oasis in a desert of mainstream lager has had its fair share of bumps in the road, but despite every challenge, the brewery seems to have gained a new lease on life, releasing new beers, new labels and being the first microbrewery in South Africa to venture into cans.
And there’s more to come: by the end of the year, the Rawdons Distillery will be launched, kicking off with an exquisite London-style gin, so you’ll soon find delicious G&Ts on tap at the Rawdons pub.
So whether your tipple of choice is a porter, a blonde or a timeless G&T, raise a glass and join me in congratulating Notties on 21 years of keeping us all tipsy, tiddly and perfectly pie-eyed.
Notties Brewery is open Mon–Fri 07:30–16:30, Sat, Sun & Public Holidays 08:00–16:00. Closed Christmas Day
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