The 21 and 22 February 2014 was the date of South Africa’s prestigious Clarens Craft Beer festival. This year without sponsorship from SA Breweries. From all indications, it was a roaring success and the beer giant was not missed at all. The town was awash with people, every establishment booked out WELL in advance. Restaurants had reserved signs on just about all their tables which made casual eating a challenge!
The festival started on Friday afternoon at 12:00 and with a crowd of 1500, the breweries had a taste of what Saturday was going to be like! The last round was at eight o’clock where after the brewers had their formal dinner at Clarens Brewery with price giving where the event winners were announced. Best of Show went to Dog and Fig for their Stout, second place went to Brauhaus am Damm for their Weiss and third place to Clarens Brewery for their spanking new American Pale Ale.
Due to work commitments the Beer Sluts could only be there on Saturday. We left at 4:30 am and were in Clarens just before opening time. This year we were helping Amanda and Ruaan from Chameleon Brewery behind the taps. What friends will do for each other. Standing in the queue, waiting for the gates to open gave us time to chat to fellow beer lovers. We even saw a couple from our hometown! Only event goers with online tickets received volume-marked and branded tasting glasses. Though this made us feel very special, it turned out to be a pain in the ass when pouring a half pint in unmarked glasses!
All the usual brewers were there with a couple of newcomers. Only brewers who could supply 300 liters of beer for the festival, qualified. With the restriction, this festival still boasts with the most amount of brewers and brews at one event. As a brewer, the Clarens Festival must be the premier festival and on every small brewer’s bucket list. It is also kick-off event on the Craft Beer Festival calendar.
SMACK REPUBLIC had an awesome Honey and Rooibos Tea beer of which I only had small taste because it was sold out by the time we stopped working and were ready for some serious beer tasting! Dog and Fig unfortunately only brought enough of their price winning stout to supply a small crowd of people with a taster. Cockpit had their normal line-up and an exclusive IPA for R250 per liter! Something we considered! The Red Amber Ale from Clarens Brewery sill remains our favourite from that brewery, despite the fact that the APA is now king of the castle. Brauhaus am Damm’s winning beer is also not our favourite beer from the brewery, we much rather have their Dunkel than the Weiss. Old Main, an old friend of ours from Howick, were at their first Clarens Festival and it is nice to see them at festivals and marketing their produce. Moritz from Draymans was there with his sleek and professional exhibition, selling liters and liters of beer. THAT Brewing Company were some of the new kids on the block from KwaZulu-Natal as was Kaya Brewery, the FIRST brewery in Bloemfontein!
Working behind the taps at a second event, it is refreshing to see how educated the crowd has become about craft beer. NOBODY asked what an ale is or where they can get Castle! Youngsters picked up tastes like caramel, banana, coffee and also commented on the aroma.
With over 4000 tickets sold for the festival, it is evident that the craft beer culture in South Africa is growing and that the Clarens Beer Festival will become the Oppikoppi of craft beer.