We hear a lot about what’s going on in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN, beer-wise, but there’s not generally much news coming out of the Eastern Cape. I just took a road trip from Jeffreys Bay to Port St John’s and beyond, sampling a few brews along the way. Turns out there’s actually quite a lot happening – here’s a rundown.
Three breweries on their way in J-Bay
Yep, from having no breweries at all, Jeffreys Bay will soon have three breweries to choose from. Those familiar with KZN’s beer scene might know Ivan Beukes, formerly of Mtunzini Brewery. Ivan has moved the brewhouse 1100km down the coast and set up in premises below De Viswijf restaurant. The brewery – set to be named Brewery on the Beach – will have a tasting area and deck where good coffee and light meals will be served alongside the beers. And yes, Ivan’s chilli beer will be reincarnated, thankfully. I didn’t get chance to chat to the folk behind J-Bay’s other breweries, but did see the premises that will become a taproom on the main strip (Da Gama Road, where Sunflower Restaurant used to be). I believe it’s going to be called Brew-Ha-Ha, with the beers brewed at a nearby industrial estate. The third, hearsay suggests, is a sizeable operation in an industrial area that may or may not be called Beervana. All are expected/hoped to be up and running well before the busy summer season begins.
Richmond Hill upscaling, Bridge Street sold, Dockside moving
I only spend 24 hours in PE but I managed to get an insight into what’s happening in the local brewing scene. First up, Richmond Hill – for me the best and most exciting of the city’s three breweries – is set to expand. The nanobrewery, currently based in premises adjoining the popular and rather awesome Beer Yard (it’s a craft beer bar with a swimming pool!!) is set to become a microbrewery (these are arbitrary statements since we have no official definitions of either but it’s a wordy way of saying they’re upping capacity). The new premises will have a tasting room in the Baakens Valley. The valley is also home to PE’s longest-running brewery, Bridge Street. Having been several times before, I didn’t pop in this time but heard from several sources that Lex Mitchell has sold his share in the business. I wonder if he’s retiring from brewing or has something else up his sleeve…
And Richmond Hill aren’t the only ones that are moving. Dockside have moved from tiny premises in an industrial complex to the basement of the Grand Hotel. The range has expanded and they’re also doing a number of contract brews for local restaurants and a township tavern. Drop by for drinks on Friday afternoon/evening – hours set to expand in the future once the larger brewery is commissioned.
And meanwhile in Grahamstown…
It’s amazing that it’s taken this long for a student town like Grahamstown to get a brewery. Then again, students aren’t necessarily known for their fine taste in booze. Featherstone Brewery opened quietly earlier this year with four beers (weiss, rooibos pale ale, PA and stout). And recently they scored their first tap – placed as it should be at the Rat and Parrot. The IPA (on tap) was a pretty good beer – clean, crisp, decent bitterness and a good hop flavour. Perhaps more of an APA than an IPA, but enjoyable nonetheless. I bought bottles of weiss (disappointing) and a stout (undercarbed but good choc flavour, would love more body) – the bottles are available at PnP Liquors in Grahamstown and Port Alfred.
Snippets from Port Alfred and Cintsa
Not much has changed at Little Brewery on the River, though they are producing a contract lager called Ben Koppen, available at various spots around the Eastern Cape (including on tap at the Pig and Whistle). Heading east, there are no new beers at Emerald Vale but the brewery building is expanding yet again (it’s almost unrecognisable each time I visit – great to see the expansion). On the cards is a larger bottling line and a cool kids area with a milkshake bar to add to the existing family-friendly fun.
It’s awesome to see craft beer gradually seeping across the whole country. When I visited the Eastern Cape for African Brew in 2012, the trip involved a lot of long drives in search of the next cold pint. In some breweries, quality is a fairly serious issue but things are moving fairly quickly, so let’s hope any bottling/recipe/consistency issues are sorted soon and the already operating breweries are soon joined by several more.