I generally only get up to Gauteng once or maybe twice a year, and then it’s usually a mad dash to get around all the new breweries in the province – a task which always takes me way longer than anticipated because I always manage to underestimate how big Jo’burg is (I live in a city where everything is a theoretical 20 mintes away, remember). I don’t generally have chance to drop into all the breweries that I’ve visited before but I do always make time to spend an evening – ideally of course a Friday evening – at one spot: Mad Giant.
I remember, probably about five years ago, being in Jo’burg with the family and volunteering to be designated driver on the day we first visited Mad Giant’s city centre premises. I regretted it instantly and vowed never to drive there again. Not due to city centre traffic (I still think Cape Town’s is worse) or the fact that my GPS always gets confused with all those overpasses and sends me down an off-ramp to Texas. No, it is because when the beers are this good, you don’t want to have just a few sips and then retreat to your glass of water.
That was back when the taproom was located alongside the brewery at 1 Fox Street. It was (well, still is I imagine) a huge place with kind of an industrial chic vibe to it (my at the time three-year-old son likened it to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory). It was a great place for Friday drinks – excellent beer and my god, the food! But it was, as I said, enormous and perhaps a little ahead of its time, location-wise. Like every restaurant in SA, it closed doors at the start of the pandemic, but sadly Mad Giant at 1 Fox is yet to reopen.
But wait, dear reader – don’t go anywhere! Imagine my (and indeed every Jo’burg beer nerd’s) joy on discovering, mid-lockdown, that Mad GIant would open a new taproom, smaller and in a part of town with a bit more passing trade.
Mad Giant’s taproom sits on a busy road in Blairgowrie. Traffic rumbles by, runners jog past and a constant trickle of people pull into the car park perhaps to shop for nut milk and quinoa at the neighbouring health store, or to grab a margherita at the pizza place next door. The smart ones though, head straight to Mad Giant, grabbing one of the tables outside, or a booth within the taproom. The smartest of all, of course, don’t need to park at all, for they will have Ubered here.
Taster trays are always a good way to start but if you want to get straight in, I’d recommend kicking off with the Killer Hop (APA), passing through a pint or two of Sho’t Left (NEPA) before settling into some Urban Legend IPAs for the rest of the evening.
Now remember that food I briefly swooned over earlier? Well here’s the great news – the food is as good as ever (and less expensive than it used to be as well). I would in fact go so far as to say that Mad Giant serves the best food of any brewery in South Africa. There – it’s officially on the record. I had to have a look at the menu to refresh my memory and now I feel both hungry and sad. I swore I would never again drive to Mad Giant, but the 2800km round-trip might be a bit much in an Uber.
For those lucky enough to live a little closer, get the burnt ends. Get the brisket. Get the broccoli. Get the pulled pork and the tacos. Get the beer doughnuts and the bourbon creme brulee. Hell, please order one of everything and send photos. But whatever you do, do make a plan to go and visit Mad Giant’s Taproom soon, whether it’s on a Friday afternoon, a Tuesday lunchtime or an all-day Saturday marathon
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and book some flights to Jozi. I suddenly feel like I’m overdue a trip.