THERE'S A CRAFT BEER REVOLUTION BREWING IN SOUTH AFRICA - We Are Africa

THERE’S A CRAFT BEER REVOLUTION BREWING IN SOUTH AFRICA

5 -min. read

When you think of South Africa, you’d be forgiven if a gently sweating glass of Chenin Blanc is the tipple that immediately comes to mind. But, thanks in part to a German most often spotted dressed entirely in yellow (complete with yellow shades and wheels to match), there’s a craft beer revolution, ahem, ‘brewing’ in the Rainbow Nation.

Compared with the far more established UK market and the titan that is the US, the South African craft beer scene is still in its infancy; but with an estimated 30 per cent growth in 2015, followed by an accelerated 35 per cent growth in 2016 and estimates of as much as 18 million litres of amber nectar flowing out of the country by the end of 2017, founder and ‘Head Dreamer’ of Beerhouse Randolf Jorberg is aiming for world domination – and beer goggles certainly aren’t to blame 

Spearheading a craft beer tasting room concept and in turn providing a platform for a whole host of small, local entrepreneurs to take their place on the world’s craft beer stage, SA-based Beerhouse is crafted around a vision for a 365-days-a-year beer festival experience. Sounds pretty good to us…

We caught up with Beerhouse ‘Beer Whisperer’, self-confessed booze hound and foot soldier in the craft beer revolution, Murray Slater, to find out more…

When and where was Beerhouse founded, and what was the thinking behind it?

The concept for Beerhouse was hatched by Head Dreamer Randolf Jorberg, and took a solid 16 months from conception to birth…

In April 2012 on a trip to Heidelberg, Germany, Jorberg began wondering why nothing similar to the beer bars he found there existed in Cape Town – and soon realised there was a gap in the South African market. Acting on a whim, he reserved a domain name (beerbar.co.za) and redirected it to a new Facebook page, inviting his Capetonian friends to ‘like’ it and posting some beer-related content.

But, once home, life look priority and he almost forgot about the idea – that is, until he heard through the grapevine about a couple of “mavericks” planning to open a beer bar with more than 40 different beers. It turned out beer blogger Joakim had written about his concept, despite him having no location and no experience in the hospitality industry. All he’d done was promise beer variety, and yet people were interested… That’s when he realised he was on to something.

A successful bar business starts with a good location – and, in Cape Town, Long Street is where it’s at. Jorberg signed a contract for 223 Long Street, still without any real plan for how to open a bar. To spread the word, he printed t-shirts and visited the Cape Town Festival of Beer, where he met the brewers who would become his partners. It was there that he found his vision: to create a 365-days-a-year beer festival experience and to be the tasting room for the South African craft beer industry. Beerhouse was born.

With the new name rolling off his tongue, Jorberg organised a Beerhouse fundraising and christening party, where he raised more than 5,000 rand in donations. It was around this time, amidst a lot of exciting momentum, that I joined the team after returning to Cape Town from a career and my own restaurant in London.

The rest, as they say, is history!

Why is it important to you that Beerhouse supports local micro-breweries?

Our USP is ‘Africa’s greatest variety of beer’, and the variety we now have access to is overwhelmingly local. From 50 breweries in South Africa in 2013, to over 200 in 2015, we feel we have been a part of that growth journey – we’ve seen many a microbrewery start off as basically a garage operation, then go on to become a multi-million rand, state-of-the-art company. Small producers are the driving force behind the revolution and have provided us with a great variety of quality beers.

 Can you describe your average Beer House customer?

A beer lover – whether they know it yet or not!

Beer represents around 78 per cent of total liquor volumes in South Africa, yet the country is more widely known for its wine; what do you want the world to know about the country’s beer scene?

It is growing at an exciting pace and is opening doors for a rich tapestry of entrepreneurs to explore their passion. South Africa’s beer scene has, historically, been dominatated by ‘hot country lagers’ that are consumed for refreshment and little else; but the craft beer revolution is bringing a greater variety of reasons to drink beer: for flavour and complexity, and with food. 

The South African craft beer market is still in its infancy, but Standard Bank estimates it grew 30 per cent in 2015, 35 per cent in 2016 and could make up as much as 18 million litres by the end of 2017. What does this mean for the South African hospitality industry?

You simply cannot ignore craft beer. You need to curate a selection as part of your beverage offerings. 

So beer and food pairing is a thing – we didn’t know that! Give us a taste of your menu and what beer you’d recommend to go with it.

We pair all our food items with beer based on flavour profiles in both food and beer that cut, contrast and compliment each other. Sweet malt calms spice in food, while salt and hops work well together – these are just two examples of what seems to be an infinite amount of interactions between food and beer. We have a cheese and beer pairing that combines goats cheese and Weiss beer, Gruyère with Bock Lager and gorgonzola with India Pale Ale. Each combination is unique and really demonstrates the versatility of beer and food pairing.

Suppose I don’t like beer – how would you convert me?

We would ask you why you don’t like beer? Often the answer is an aversion to bitterness. Then we’d direct you to a beer with low bitter profile, like a wheat beer. We’ve seen many a surprised expression when introducing people to a wide range of flavour profiles that beer can demonstrate.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTsOCWqgS62/?taken-by=snappingkate

We’re guessing trying the beer you serve is an important part of the job… What’s your favourite?

I’m promiscuous… It’s all down to the environment and social setting I’m in! Environmental factors like weather, the time of day and what I’m eating are just some of the influences that determine my beer of choice. Thankfully, due to the massive variety, there really is a beer for all occasions. On a hot summer day I will be found mostly with a Belgian Saison, and in the winter sipping a dark, malt-forward beer. I have no favourite – just different favourites at different times.

#FreeBeerFriday has caught our eye… What’s that all about?!

Every Friday afternoon we give away a keg’s worth of free beer at all Beerhouses country-wide. You have to let our navigators (staff) know a password to get the beer, which you can get from our Facebook page and Twitter feed. The passwords make you work for your beer and range from tongue twisters, to weird dancers or silly songs!

How would you like to work more closely with the high-end travel industry?

Craft beer is a premium product and Africa, as a developing continent, is starting to show an appetite for premium goods. At Beerhouse we are proud to be firmly rooted in Africa and part of a beer revolution that will take the continent by storm, one yellow Beerhouse at a time. Craft beer is a lifestyle that’s closely in line with We Are Africa ideals: it’s all about curating an experience. That is our – and Africa’s – ultimate unique selling point. You just can’t get that experience anywhere else.

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Katie Palmer
Katie Palmer is Editorial Manager for This is Beyond

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