With the alcohol ban reinstated for a fourth time, my beloved industry is again struggling to survive and needs every morsel of help it can get. So this week I’m going to post a series of reviews with info on how to pre-order the beers and keep craft brewer cash flow somewhat, well, flowing while sales are prohibited.
It just so happens that I have a pretty good selection of beer in my fridge, largely thanks to entries that were left over after the 2021 African Beer Cup. Stocks are rapidly decreasing but I had put some aside to review and now seems as good a time to do it as any. So we kick off with the Extra Stout from Friar’s Habit Craft Brewery.
For those that don’t know, Friar’s Habit is a Pretoria-based nanobrewery that’s been around since 2015. It took me until 2021 to finally get around to visiting and I can confirm that this brewery is definitely nano. I can also confirm that Chris Klapwijk and his team can brew a damn good beer. I sampled their flagship Irish red straight from the tank and later settled into a couple of pints of it at Capital Craft, where it can usually be found on tap. But as you might have noticed from the title of this post, that is not the beer I’m sipping on today. I’m here to introduce you to the Extra Stout.
I knew before I opened it that the carbonation was going to be low. The can kind of squished to the touch and when I cracked it open, it was a marginal underfill which had left it slightly undercarbed. Still, the style could carry it off (and I tend to favour beers on the lower end of the carbonation scale) so it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the beer. Body-wise, the stout is spot on – well rounded and velvety, although I must admit while sipping I was having lustful thoughts about what this brew would be like on nitro.
This is a beer for those that enjoy roasted malt bitterness. There is chocolate here but it’s not the sweet, milk chocolate of advent calendars. This is Lindt 90% stuff – rich and bitter. There’s coffee here too – not a just-made flat white, but the grounds leftover in the bottom of a well-used Moka pot. There is an undeniable but smooth bitterness, and the beer would go well with a sweet dessert, the bitterness cutting through chocolaty richness like a good espresso does.
The observant among you might have noticed that I mentioned Friar’s Habit winning a second medal at this year’s African Beer Cup. Well in case you were wondering, that was for Mary, an experimental imperial Irish red ale that was aged for three years before release. Alas I didn’t manage to salvage one from the comp, but I was lucky enough to taste one earlier this year and will defer to my scribbled notes to give you an idea of what to expect.
Mary has a complex aroma of raisins, plums and Christmas pudding, and just like any good Christmas pud, there is a good bit of booze to be found in the background. It’s a viscous and rich beer displaying bitter, malt-derived flavours of dark chocolate and treacle toffee. Put short, it’s a great winter beer.
At R400 a bottle, Mary doesn’t come cheap, but really – how many imperial Irish reds have you come across this year? And Friar’s Habit – like every small brewery out there – could really use your support, whether it’s buying a limited edition, numbered and signed bottle of Mary, a fridge-full of stout (R200 for an 8-pack) or a case of anything from their core range. They are currently taking pre-orders on their website with beers delivered as soon as the latest ban is lifted. Do support – they need your custom and you need their beer!