Many South African homebrewers/craft brewers/general beer geeks probably feel that they already know Randy Mosher. They don’t of course, but lots of you have likely read a number of his books, whether they’re on homebrewing in particular, like Radical Brewing, or beer geekery in general, such as Tasting Beer. He’s also part-owner of a brewery that produced an anti-Trump beer called Chinga tu Pelo (roughly translated – fuck your hair), which I’m sure you’ll agree is pretty awesome. There is much excitement in the SA beer industry at the moment, since Randy will be landing on our shores to give the keynote speech at Beer Boot Camp this weekend in Johannesburg and next weekend in Cape Town. I grabbed five minutes of Randy’s time ahead of his first ever visit to South Africa.
What made you decide to speak at Beer Boot Camp?
It’s a great opportunity to see a very unique and different place, investigate what the scene is there and make new friends,.
Have you had any encounters with South African beer before?
Really, no. Our director at Siebel used to run sensory panels at SAB, but that’s my only tenuous connection.
We’re still very much a nation of lager-drinkers, but some brewers are doing a little ‘radical brewing’ – using indigenous plants and herbs in their beers. Is there anything you would never add to a brew or any addition that would totally put you off tasting a beer?
Hard to imagine what it would be. We brewed a beer with chapulines (grasshoppers or crickets) at our 5 Rabbit Cerveceria in Chicago, and that tasted pretty good and didn’t really shock anybody. So, I don’t know what it would take to cross that line.
Our craft beer scene is pretty young – 10 years ago you’d have to search a lot to find something other than a mass-produced lager. Do you think there will be an element of stepping back in time for you – comparing the South African scene to the US in earlier years?
I expect so. I have spent a fair amount of time in South and Central America and also traveled to Australia. There are a lot of similarities in all these places where craft beer is establishing itself. . Some countries are further along, but things are happening fast. One big difference is that we in the US have proven that craft beer can be a real business, and that it will be around for a while. And also, I think the passion is contagious. So elsewhere in the world, things can move quickly, at least conceptually. Infrastructure takes longer. Brewing is a difficult business to grow, and that applies to individual companies as well as the industry as a whole. You need trained tasters, ingredients and suppliers, packaging and brewing equipment, yeast, quality control expertise, educational expertise, brewers, knowledgeable distributors and retailers, as well as customers who understand good beer and are willing to pay for it. So, obviously it takes time to develop all that. Big brewers everywhere have a lot of advantages over the little guys, and some places its overwhelming. So that’s another issue.
We have several homebrewing clubs around the country and our national homebrewing championships coming up in October – do you have any wise words for South Africa’s home brewers?
Oh, yeah, I have a few books worth, but I’ll just say: 1) learn to be a great taster; 2) know your ingredients; 3) quality, quality, quality; and 4) try to be true to your own vision.
Finally, what can we expect from you at Beer Boot Camp?
I’ll be talking about beer history and pointing out that many of the myths we cherish about beer are just beautiful stories and not actual history. As a consolation, the actual truth is usually more interesting than the old tales anyway. But beside that formal talk, I always look forward to the exchange of ideas and information over a beer or two, so…
Want to join Randy for a beer? There’s still chance to buy your Boot Camp tickets. The one-day conference s taking place n Johannesburg on July 2nd and Cape Town on July 9th. Tickets are R850.