We have a tradition to try and get out and do at least one road trip a year.
We try and combine beer and some scenic category, such as beer & beach, or beer & mountain, or beer & trail riding.
So this year, we thought we’d do a Natal North Coast Meander and on the way back home try and find some of the more obscure breweries.
1. Zululand Brewery, Eshowe.
Anybody who has been to Eshowe will know this is a typical rural town with the majority of commerce focused on agriculture.
As we pulled into the old George Hotel, there was absolutely no indication that there was a brewery of any type on the premises.
Luckily, the brewmistress (yes, a young lady) was chatting to the hotel receptionist when we walked inside to inquire about the brewery, otherwise the chances were good that we would have been none the wiser.
There was no indication that any of the Chennells family (the registered owners) were in attendance.
The brewery is no larger than a double garage, housed in a prefab concrete construction on the one side of the rear of the hotel grounds.
From what we could determine, there isn’t enough stock to supply the local demand. One wonders by who and where the Zulu Blond is being brewed? It definitely isn’t being brewed and bottled in Eshowe for the UK, Europe and the USA markets.
2. The Firkin Hophouse
At one stage, the Firkin Hophouse was a working brewery and craft beer pub.
There is a still a line of 13 jacketed 1000L fermentation tanks standing behind the bar.
But alas, the pub now only sells SAB and similar commercial beers, not even one local craft beer is in sight.
It would appear the rest of the original brewery equipment is at Old Main Brewery between Pietermaritzburg and Howick.
What a pity. But at least Old Main is on a revival course.
3. Wartburg Brauhaus
Another futile search. We determined that the original brewery was at the Wartburger Hof hotel. Alas, the brewery is long gone, and the basement is simply a plain old style country bar, with the brewery space taken over as a meeting venue by the local farmers association. So sad.
At 200L per week, this was never a large brewery anyway.
4. Shongweni / Robson’s Brewery
So then we set course for the Shongweni Valley.
After a fairly interesting drive down the Kassier Road towards the Ntshongweni Dam, we found the farm where the beer is brewed.
Unfortunately, it seems as if everybody had disappeared for the weekend. The small brewery seems to be in a converted milking shed.
Disappointed, we turned around and went and drowned our sorrows at Nottingham Road.
At least they were open for business and happy to serve us.
Maybe next time we’ll have more luck finding the elusive KZN brewer.