This is the fourth year I have run the Brewmistress South African Beer Awards. It’s a way for the public to show some love to the brewers, bar owners, liquor store managers and all the rest who rock your beery world. The votes have been cast and tallied and it is time to announce the winners. This year 218 people voted, but once duplicate votes were removed, as well as what I consider spoiled ballots (where someone votes for their mate’s brewery/bar/liquor store in every single category) there were 187 viable votes. And here are all the winners:
Best Brewery (based on the beers)
WINNER: Aegir Project
2nd place: Richmond Hill Brewing Co.
3rd place: Paternoster Brewery
Honourary mention: Devil’s Peak, who just missed out on a podium spot.
Best destination brewery (taking into account food, beer, ambiance etc.)
WINNER: Aegir Project
2nd place: Paternoster Brewery
3rd place: Mad Giant/Richmond Hill
Note – voters didn’t specify which branch of Aegir or which branch of Mad Giant they were voting for, but they’re all rather wonderful, so make a new year’s resolution to test them all out and pick your favourite.
Best liquor store:
WINNER: Hillcrest Tops
2nd place: Biggest Little Beer Shop
3rd place: Groenekloof Liquor City
Honourable mentions: Preston’s, which I had never heard of but appears to be the best place to buy craft beer in PE. The other honourable mention has to go to “an open one”, which this year has admittedly been a bit of a challenge.
Best beer bar/restaurant
WINNER: Capital Craft
2nd place: Banana Jam Cafe
For the first time since the awards started, Banana Jam has been knocked off the top spot. It was a little sad that there was no viable contender for third place, showing that the pandemic and subsequent lockdown has had a devastating impact on our restaurant industry and in turn on the number of outlets available to craft brewers.
Best beer festival/event
This was probably the most difficult and painful question to answer, since Covid has pretty much guaranteed that everything you enjoy has been cancelled this year. Luckily, there was at least one event that took place before the pandemic hit SA. And I was rather pleased to see that my little lockdown beerfest idea had a small impact. Look out for version 2.0 on South African National Beer Day 2021.
WINNER: Clarens Craft Beer Fest
2nd place: Backyard Beer Fest
Honourary mentions: More than a quarter of the respondents answered “none”, ‘N/A” or “I didn’t go to any”, while a few people replied with a solid “bahahahahahhahaha”. Worth a mention though is people’s love for nostalgia, with a good chunk voting for Fools & Fans, CTFOB, Capital Craft and Woodstock Winter Beer Fest despite the fact that none of them took place this year. Oh, and I must give a mention to the person that responded “getting loaded at home by myself”. We hear you man, we hear you.
Best beer branding
The winner of this category came as no surprise. They won the title last year and deservedly hung onto it in 2020. And if you don’t know why they won, just head over to their Facebook page and scroll the gallery.
WINNER: The Kennel Brewery
2nd place: Richmond Hill
3rd place: Devil’s Peak
Honourary mentions: Mohope Craft and Paternoster Brewery just missed out on a medal.
Biggest beer story of the year
WINNER: I feel sad writing ‘winner’ and ‘lockdown/pandemic/prohibition’ on the same line, but the overwhelming majority of course said that the lockdown-related booze ban was the biggest story of the year.
2nd place: On a cheerier note, voters wanted to acknowledge the Brewers Soup Collective, mentioning Woodstock, Old Potter’s, Drifter, Long Beach, Stellies and Richmond in conjunction with the amazing project spearheaded by Woodstock’s Andre Viljoen (who also won a number of votes individually).
3rd place: Related to the booze ban but warranting a spot of its own was the extreme interest in homebrewing and in particular, the popularity of pineapple ‘beer’.
Honourary mentions: This category seemed to confuse people and gave me a good old laugh. A lot of people seemed to think they were being asked about their personal beer story and responded with everything from “our first date”, “got married” (congrats btw, Donald), “dance naked” and best of all, “too embarrassed” and “too drunk to remember”. I was also intrigued by the person who felt the biggest beer story of the year was “the sale of Devil’s Peak”. I must have missed that one…
Favourite Brewmistress blog post of 2020
This category was sneakily thrown in for a couple of reasons – to direct new faces to the blog who had seen the awards shared on social media and also to find out what people enjoy reading. The results were all over the place, but the piece raising a glass to all the bootleggers and hustlers was particularly popular, proving that people actually like reading something cheery. A special thank you to the people that offered a link to my blog and in particular, the two people that wrote “beermistress.co.za”. I think I’ll see if I can purchase that domain…
The Doc Brown award for outstanding innovation
WINNER: Mad Giant for their Extra Fresh initiative
2nd place: Kennel Brewery for their string of weird and wonderful collabs and once-off beers
3rd place: Longbeach Brewery for taking on the challenge of brewing every beer in the DIYDog catalogue.
The Spitting in the Face of Adversity award
I wanted to call this the “Dr Ross Geller award four outstanding ability to pivot”, but people already get so confused by the Doc Brown Award I decided to keep my 90s popular culture references to myself. But this award was meant to honour those that rolled with the punches this year, despite the fact that those punches kept raining down, and rarely stayed above the belt. I truly loved one response, which read “all breweries that made it through deserve credit”. They really, really do. But there were a few that deserve a special mention
WINNER: Brewers Soup Collective
2nd place: Mad Giant for their Extra Fresh Beer and for making Sanitiser, and The Kennel Brewery for releasing more new beers than we have lockdown and loadshedding levels combined (and also for busking, collabing and doing live aerobics in a cropped t-shirt).
3rd place: Devil’s Peak, for pivoting to non-alc beers
Beer of the year
As always, dozens and dozens of beers received votes here and the top three was very tight indeed. The top three really represented a fine mix of a long-established national brewery, a very new contract brand and a small-town brewpub.
WINNER: Jack Black Cape Pale Ale
2nd place: Mohope Premium Lager
3rd place: Paternoster Pilsner
Honourary mentions: Devil’s Peak’s Juicy Lucy and Contour Lines from Aegir/Devil’s Peak both just missed out on a podium position. And DP’s non alcoholic range also garnered a surprising number of votes.
Thanks to all who voted. Keep supporting your local brewer and keep reading the blog – I have a lot planned for 2021. Merry Christmas and may your 2021 be less of a turd than your 2020 was.