This isn’t so much a beer review as a story I want to tell, dressed up as a beer review. It all began somewhere on the N5 between Clarens and Bloemfontein. We had epically roadtripped from Cape Town to Clarens along the coast, spent a spectacular few days at the Clarens Craft Beer Festival and were not-so-slowly making our way back home. Our destination for the day was Richmond, but that is a story for another time. Somewhere on the road between Clarens and Bloem, someone said “aren’t there any breweries in Bloem?”
I had spent a fair amount of time planning the northbound trip but given little thought to the return leg, so I jumped onto my phone and got the hopvine working. Within 20 minutes, we had scored a table at the previously fully booked Brew & Still taproom and had reset our destination in Maps. I was also in conversation with a Bloemfontein homebrewer, also on his way back from Clarens. He was keen for us to taste some beers from Stellar Brewery. Within the hour, this guy I had never before spoken to had contacted the brewer, got him to open up, collected beers and brought them to us at the Brew & Still. And that’s why I love the craft beer world. I mean, maybe this sort of thing happens in other industries, but I somehow can’t imagine someone going out of their way to deliver a linoleum sample or a bag of nuts or a new flavour of vape. I mean, this isn’t even a guy that has a stake in the brewery – just someone with a true love of local beer.
Jon – you’re an absolute legend. Here’s what I thought about the beer: it’s a velvety, almost creamy beer with a great coffee character and plenty of milk chocolate-like sweetness. It kind of reminded my of the coffee creams you used to get in a box of Quality Street. It’s a fairly rich brew with plenty of sweetness up front, but then the roasted malts kick in leaving a dry finish that entices you back for another sip. It was a little undercarbonated, and a little more fizz would have lifted it a little, making it not quite so rich. Still, it’s a well-made beer, perfect for enjoying with a slice of gooey chocolate cake on a Free State winter evening.
Best of all, it gave me one of those stories that makes me remember why I do all of this.
What’s your best tale of beer love? Why not share it in the comments section?