The Joburg Festival of Beer was our maiden voyage as The Beersluts, all dressed up in our T-Shirts with our logo on! It was also our maiden voyage at a Festival of Beer event since it originated in Cape Town and only recently started in Joburg. A festival of over 50 brewers presenting over 150 beers for us to taste! The only problem was driving home after you tasted 150+ beers!!! Even JUST TASTING puts you over the recommended limit which works out to 1 beer/hour! Never the less , on Sunday 8 September, the last day of the festival, we made our way to the Pirates Sports Club in Randburg. Exhibitors were by invitation only, so we expected to taste some excellent beer. It being a Sunday, it was quiet and we had a chance to talk to the brewers.
The exhibitors were arranged in two large tents, connected on the one end with a food court where you could select from a variety of gorgeous dishes to compliment your favorite beer! They had beer pairing during the previous 2 days of the show, which I would’ve loved to be there for, maybe next time! While we were looking at what was to offer, we bumped into South African Master Chef judge, Pete Goffe-Wood who had his famous Kitchen Cowboy stall with a BBQ Pork Belly Sandwich, which were sold out and a mature Sirloin Chamlor Steak sandwich on offer. When we joked about his beard, he commented that it was the only place hair would grow. I giggled.
The first stall on the left in the first tent was our favorite brewery, Chameleon Brewery! Ruaan had an IPA, IRA and Blonde on tap. That was his emergency stock since he sold out on Saturday and had to fetch more kegs from the brewery! The IPA has a nice malty sweetness with a hint of fruitiness and almost a Pilsner bitterness. Brilliant beer especially for hop-heads and should preferably be drunk after a mild beer to do it justice. The IRA is one of our all time favorites. It has a reddish copper color and a taste so complex it is difficult to describe. It is borderline to his award winning APA in our book!
Brauhaus am Damm was next and there we met Imke, the brewer who we didn’t meet the day we visited the brewery. They had the Dunkel, our favorite Brauhaus beer, the Farmers Draft , a smooth, very drinkable lager and their Pilsner, which we skipped, on tap and people were queuing to taste.
By now we started to get a bit of a buzz and decided to concentrate only on new beers we haven’t tasted before or those we gave a really bad mark on previous shows.
Steadeaven, a family-run brewery from Kwazulu Natal was first on our list of newcomers. Saun Steadeaven, a young vibrant brewer enticed us with his old fashioned way of brewing beer. He doesn’t add ANY refined sugar to his beer, he lets the beer ferment naturally until it reaches the alcohol levels required. Some of his beers take up to five and a half weeks to ferment! You can surely taste the difference since his Pilsner was the only Pilsner I EVER enjoyed! He also had a LagerX, developed by accident apparently, which had quite a fruity taste with a little bitter after taste, a very drinkable beer! His Blue Berry Weiss was also quite different. He adds dried berries to his boil and then blue berry mash during the fermentation process and that gives the Weiss a very distinct blue berry aroma and flavor!
The Three Skulls we revisited, mostly because brewer, Jonathan Nel is such a friendly guy who always laughs and we wanted to give his beer another chance after the Capital Craft beer festival at the Monument in Pretoria, earlier this year where we discarded the beer. I am glad we did. The Grave Digger Blond still had a bit of chemical taste BUT all his other beer was OK. The Banshee IPA was very hopsy with an extremely bitter after taste but still within the perimeters of the style. Johnathan gave us very good advice when visiting the beer festivals. We should maybe concentrate on a specific style rather than trying to taste all the styles at once. I just don’t think I would do that with Weiss or Pilsner.
Though we saw Darling Brewery at several festivals, we never bothered to taste their beer! The brewery from the Western Cape only had ONE beer, the Slow Brew on tap. They did however open some of their other bottled beer for us to taste. The Silver Back, a black wheat beer, which is, as it’s name states, very wheaty and very black. We are not sure what style it falls under but it did taste like a lager.
Robson’s Brewery also from Kwazulu Natal, also had a very palatable Pilsner which was surprisingly not extremely bitter but rather fruity and slightly sweet. Their West Coast Ale had a nice, barley and hops hit but not sweet at all – close to an English because of its blandness.
The Dog & Fig Brewery we had to give another taste since we enjoy their unique Buchu beer which is an English IPA with a Buchu infusion, We have seen the Dog & Fig at nearly every festival we went to and we always go back for the Buchu beer, Other beer on tap was the Alterternative Alt, which falls under the Ambrid Hybrid beer style and had the appearance of a Northern German Altbier. The beer had a good balance between bitter and sweet, had a brilliant copper appearance with a nice roasted barley after taste. We love a good craft stout, unlike the commercial versions, it has rich coffee, chocolate flavors and a lingering burnt caramel aftertaste. Their Stewige Stout had a great aroma with an initial, excellent caramel and coffee flavor but a medium bitter after taste.
Drayman’s Brewey, also whiskey distillery had theire Heffer Weissbier on tap as well as their Goblin’s Bitter. The Weiss was not too herby with mild flavors and a hint of sweetness. The Goblin’s Bitter is supposed to be an English Pale Ale but tasted a lot like a Dunkel, but still very tasty with a strong hops after taste.
The Aces Brew Worx, a brand new Gauteng startup brewery who only launched their brewery in August 2013. The two young brewers have previous experience since they both worked for Mitchell’s in Knysna. The two beers offered was a lager and a ginger beer. The Aces Lager is a light, smooth drikable beer arguably better than Foresters. The ginger beer is a 5% ABV and is excellent with a strong ginger flavor, not to sweet. Compares nicely to the ginger beer produced by Black Horse breweries, who was not at this festival.
Nottingham Road Brewing Company, also a Kwazulu Natal brewery, had two beers on tap. The passion for what is produced was obvious when Deon Tegg, manager and brewer explained the process and describes his brewing style. This brewery had all of it’s signature beers on tap namely the Tiddly Toad Light Lager, the Wisteling Weasel Pale Ale. the Pye-eyed Possom Pilsner and the Pickled Pig Porter. By now even the tasters got us quite sloshed and we had to restrain ourselves. We picked two of their beers to taste. The Wisteling Weasel Pale Ale had a mild lagerish aroma with mild mild fruit flavor and nearly tasted like a lager than a Pale Ale, not hopsy at all. We then had the Pickled Pig Porter had a treacle and caramel flavor, slightly acidic with a strong hops after taste. Their beer will soon be available in tins in certain bottle stores. Personally we are not big fans of drinking craft beer from a tin. We prefer craft beer from a glass bottle.
Franky Four Fingers, a brewery we never heard of and couldn’t find much information about on the Internet, seems to be commissioned by Boston Breweries to brew the signature Franky Four Finger Pale Lager, exported to countries like New Zealand. The beer has multiple layers of hops, almost sweet and not excessively bitter. It has a nice aroma for a lager and a pleasant after taste.
Devil’s Peak Brewery Brewing Company from Salt River in the Western Cape had four beers on tap. It was a pity the brewer wasn’t there in person as I was keen to get as many brewers to sign my African Brew book. They had the the Woodhead Amber Ale which had a nice aroma but an excessively bitter taste which dampened any attempt to add caramel or any other sweet flavor. The Blackhead IPA was a good example of the style and had a fruity aroma and a bitter hops after taste in the American IPA style. The First Light Golden Ale is a smooth light Ale with slight spice flavors and sweetness. It seems to be characteristic of a Blond Beer. The last beer we tasted from Devil’s Peak was their Silver Tree Saison, a French Ale originating from the French part of Belgium. It is a light, spicy bitter beer.
The last brewery we visited was just to say hallo to Andre, the brewer at The Cockpit Brewery AND to have a taste of his Black Widow Stout and the Mustang Pale Ale! We always have these at the festivals since they are really good.
We raped our palates! We learned, we tasted, we swallowed. We never spit out! It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!