Over 100 breweries visited, more than 300 beers tasted, around 5000 km driven and close to 70,000 words written. Beer Safari has been a hell of a journey. You’ll have to wait until November to read the finished product but for now I thought I’d share some musings with you. There are now breweries scattered across South Africa, but for me there are a few towns that don’t have a microbrewery that, for one reason or another, really should. Here are half a dozen places where I’d love to see a brewery open – care to add any more to the list?
1. Kimberley, Northern Cape
The largest town in the Northern Cape has some of the most atmospheric pubs in the country – diamond rush-era watering holes adorned with Cecil Rhodes quotes and retro Castle ads. But wouldn’t it be awesome to step into one of these long-standing bars and be able to order a beer that’s been brewed on site? I’d particularly like to see a brewery built in the mock-up mining village alongside the Big Hole – I bet it wouldn’t be the first time beer had been brewed here. The Occidental Grill Bar already has a good range of craft beer, so it seems the perfect place to launch the Big Hole Brewing Company…
2. Swellendam, Western Cape
It’s the quintessential lunch stop as people make their way from Cape Town towards the Garden Route, but if Swellendam had a microbrewery, I can’t help thinking it would be a great tourism boost. People stop for lunch, they stay for a beer, they order a second and then realise it would be irresponsible to continue along the N2, so they stay the night. Suddenly, Swellendam isn’t merely a lunch stop – it’s a weekend destination. I’d certainly stay a couple of days – the hiking is excellent and there’s a burgeoning foodie scene that just needs to be washed down with a good pale ale.
3. Grahamstown, Eastern Cape
How is it possible that an arty city with several thousand students wandering around doesn’t have a brewery? There were undoubtedly breweries here back when the city was founded – wouldn’t it be awesome to see some English-inspired ale house launching here again? I reckon a low-cost blonde ale made entirely with local ingredients would be a student hit, then a couple of more complex brews would round out the series.
4. Greyton, Western Cape
Greyton has long been known for its arty-foodie scene and the cafes and restaurants here have supported local brewing brands like Birkenhead and Napier. It’s a gorgeous little place where everything is within walking distance and for me, this makes it the ideal spot for a microbrewery. Other Western Cape towns that I would fit into this category include Riebeek Kasteel, Tulbagh and McGregor.
5. Sutherland, Northern Cape
Sutherland is my favourite South African dorp. It has one road, there’s virtually nothing to do, at least in daylight hours, and it has simply the most spectacular skies. It’s also bloody cold, and I think it needs a microbrewery serving up the likes of barley wine and Russian imperial stout. Like everything else in the town, I predict it would have a space-themed name, and with the number of overseas astronomers regularly visiting SALT, I imagine there would actually be a reasonable demand for some massively hopped double IPAs or super-rich stouts to pair with a plate of Karoo lamb. If no-one else does it, I might just open the Inter-Galactic Brewing Co. myself…
6. Barberton, Mpumalanga
It’s got everything – a pretty location at the foot of the Makhonjwa Mountains, a compact centre that’s easy to navigate on foot and some fascinating gold rush-era history featuring tales of loose women and rough taverns. I think there’s a pun in here somewhere about liquid gold, but I’m not going to go there.
So what do you think? Are there any SA towns that you’d love to find a brewery in? In fact, one of the towns mentioned here has a brewery due to open later this year – first person to spot it wins eternal glory and handful of happiness.