This is a random way to start a blog post on beer, but I love print publishing. I love flicking through the pages of a magazine. I love the smell of books. I love seeing words I’ve written printed on a real page. But I also understand the limitation of print. Newspapers specialise in yesterday’s news, magazine listings are fine for a month but then become obsolete. And books about breweries in countries with booming, ever-changing beer scenes simply cannot keep up with what’s going on out there. So I’ve decided to start what I envisage to be an ongoing series on the blog, under the title of ‘The Beer Safari Continues’. Whenever I visit a new brewery, a brewery that wasn’t up and running when Beer Safari went to print, I’ll add a short write up to the blog. First up: Mountain Brewing Company near Worcester.
There are a number of breweries in South Africa with appropriate names. Devil’s Peak offers a view of the mountain which lends its name, Dockside Brewery is found close to Port Elizabeth’s docks, Brauhaus am Damm does indeed sit above a dam and there are no prizes for guessing where the Little Brewery on the River is situated. But I can’t think of a place that’s better named than Mountain Brewing Company. It’s not just near a mountain or within view of a mountain. When you drive the steep and winding dirt road to the brewery and grab a pint from the on-site pub, you really feel like you’re in the mountains.
PG Groenewald has only been brewing a couple of years, but in that time he’s made great strides. He’s gone from a 20-litre ‘make a plan’ self-built system to a 50-litre Spadoni system imported from Italy and shortly afterwards, a 300-litre version of the same. He clearly lives, breathes, and drinks beer, reading up on foam stability, water tweaking, barrel-ageing and just about every other aspect of beer you could think of. But he is a little isolated out there on the outskirts of Worcester. The nearest brewery is Saggy Stone, 50km away, and the town doesn’t exactly have much of a homebrewing culture yet. So PG invited us to visit – a win-win situation that gave him someone to talk beer, beer, beer with for a day and gave us the opportunity to visit what must be in the top five most scenic breweries in South Africa.
The core range consists of Loadshed Lager (slightly fruity but still crisp and suitably thirst-quenching in the Worcester heat), Copper Dawn (a dry-hopped Vienna lager), Cape Kraken Belgian Amber Ale (which would a medal in last year’s SA National Beer Trophy) and Black or White Hy Smaak Oraait, a vanilla porter with a touch of sweetness (I would personally prefer a bit more coffee character to back up the sweetness from the vanilla, but then I’m not known for a sweet tooth when it comes to beer). But if you visit the brewery you’ll also be treated to any number of other beers in the ‘Originals’ range. I particularly enjoyed the Belgian IPA – a full bodied, full-strength beer with plenty of tropical hop aromas.
The brewery sits on Klipbokkop Mountain Reserve, a magnificent setting with en suite rooms around a communal covered braai area and a bar-restaurant with a large deck built with the beautiful views in mind. The only downside is that Klipbokkop only accepts group bookings (minimum 10 people). But then I’m sure you know another nine beer lovers who wouldn’t mind spending the weekend surrounded by rugged peaks, countless stars and plenty of cold, brewery-fresh beer.
Mountain Brewing Co is currently open on Saturday and Sundays only – lunch bookings essential. Keep an eye on their Facebook page as plans are afoot to keep the brewery open during the week as well. This will most likely happen when the brewery moves to a new building to accommodate the newer, larger brewhouse. A 600-litre system is mere months away…