I’ve been largely useless at updating the blog lately. I scribbled some notes for the Tolokazi Sorghum Pilsner in early August when I received a mixed pack from the brewery, and these notes have been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. But since the beer contains what you could call a heritage grain, it seems fitting that I have finally got around to finishing the review on Heritage Day.
As you might well know, traditional South African beer – most commonly known as umqombothi – predominantly uses malted sorghum in the grain bill and with this beer, brewer Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela wanted to honour that tradition.
It’s not 100% sorghum though. In fact much in the way Hansa has the “kiss of the Saaz hop” you could say that the Tolokazi pilsner has the kiss of sorghum about it. Malted sorghum makes up only 10% of the grain bill and while its contribution to the end flavour of the beer is minimal, it is still an important addition.
The brand – its name, its label and its beer styles – is hopefully going to achieve what craft beer has so far failed to bring to the table in South Africa: diversity in its drinkers. This is a beer that honours African brewing heritage both in its the use of sorghum in beer and the fact that beer has always been brewed by women in South Africa. Tolokazi is not a new brand, but a revamp of the Brewsters Craft range. And just as the name suggests (brewster is the name for a female brewer), the company is made up almost entirely of women. Tolokazi is the clan name of Brewsters Craft’s founder, Apiwe.
The beer itself is a thirst-quenching gulper that will easily appeal to pretty much any South African beer drinker. It’s a bright gold brew with a slight haze lent by the sorghum. The aroma is sweet and grainy with just a touch of sulphur that disappears just as you’re realising it was there. Sweet up front, the beer ends with a crisp bitterness that will have people guzzling this by the six pack along with a packet of wors and some chops on the braai. It’s an extremely drinkable brew and definitely the star of the Tolokazi range.