Craft Brewers of the Magalies Valley
Only barley, hops and water are used. When you ask the local brewers about their ingredients they are all very proud when they talk about the water that they use – all from local boreholes or nearby fountains. But ask them about the hops and barley that they make their brew with and they all get a hazy look in their eyes, not unlike the colour of their beers. Some mumble something about a privileged source from within Big Brother while others give a vague explanation of a special import from a surreptitious location somewhere in Europe. And rightly so. All these craft beers are unique – from the inimitable Trailer Trash Blonde that Dirk van Tonder taps on a regular basis to the unique Brauhaus Dubkel Imke Pape serves in Rustenburg. For many years South Africa only had a limited selection of beers on the marker, dominated by the mass produced supply from the South African Breweries and a few imported variants. A few years ago SAB had a change in attitude and realised that the craft brewers would enhance the beer drinking culture in the country and today they actively support the crafters. As the appreciation of beer grew, more craft brewers opened and at the last count more than sixty craft brewers produce thousands of litres of liquid gold every week. Hundreds of home brewers followed this trend and many turn their kitchens or garages into mini laboratories on weekends to experiment with their own unique concoctions. Restaurants and pubs joined the fast growing trend and many serve the products of craft brewers on tap. Explore our own local craft beer route. But remember the golden rules – drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Cheers!
The Irish Ale House – Broederstroom
In the new book on South African craft beers “African Brew” (see page 28 to win a copy) Dirk van Tonder is described as the maverick of South African brewers. “I was first apprehensive about this new “title” but after a few more beers I realised that that is exactly who I am”, according to Dirk. Not surprisingly the Ale House was awarded the first position in a recent survey by Food24.com searching for the top ten “Quirky craft breweries in South Africa”. Their description of the Ale House is spot on. “The Irish Ale House is a rustic, ramshackle brew pub where patrons scribble on walls and donkeys wander the dusty grounds.” With names like “Trailer Trash Blond” you never know what to expect out of the taps of what Dirk calls his “Beer Farm” in Broederstroom. What you can expect is a very drinkable, highly enjoyable and a somewhat unusual craft beer. The local Magalies brewers are an eccentric bunch but always friendly. Dirk will eagerly share his passion for hops and you are guaranteed of many sundowners listening to Dirk’s tales of brewing and beer. He will also share his love of the two other passions in his life. “The donkeys are always around when I brew. They can smell the grain being boiled and know they will soon get an incredibly nutritious snack.” The Irish part in the brewery’s name has got nothing to do with this nation’s reputation of beer drinkers. “I have the highest respect for the Irish who fought on the side of the Boers during the Anglo War instead of that of the British. The Ale House also serves as some sort of a monument for the brave Irish.” When you ask Dirk if he wants to visit Ireland he laughs – “No, because I will never come back!” But be warned – if you expect the same beer every weekend you will not find it at the Ale House.
Brauhaus am Damm – Rustenburg
When you walk into the Brauhaus am Damm you immediately become aware of the German precision – and the passion that is almost visible everywhere. “Brewing has become my life and I love every minute of it”, smiles Imke Pape when she tells the story of how she became one of only a handful of women brewmasters in the world. A family friend told her and her husband about a private brewery in Natal that was up for sale. “The state of the art equipment was from Austria and the meticulous attention to detail ensured that the brewery was highly respected and well known far outside KZN”. At the beginning of 2009 Imke and a group of friends purchased the brewery and painstakingly dismantled it and transported it to the current location at Olifantsnek. While disassembling the brewery Imke became very attached to all the beautiful equipment and proposed to the other stakeholders: “I would like to be the brewer for Brauhaus am Damm!” The new location for the brewery (and restaurant) was built on the banks of the picturesque Olifantsnek Dam on a piece of the farm that Imke was born on. “For two years I have read every book that I could find on brewing. I read, slept and drank beer! When I finished reading all the books I would start all over again.” During this time Imke met a German brewmaster who stayed in Johannesburg. Heiko Feuring offered his expertise and together they brewed the very first Brauhaus beer in Imke’s kitchen. Today Imke’s “Dunkel” is still brewed according to the same recipe that they used in an old cooking pot. After a year of self-study Imke went to Europe and worked for a week in a brewery in Germany similar to the one at Brauhaus. From there she travelled to Vienna where the equipment of the Brauhaus brewery originated. “For three weeks I was taught the art of brewing. The time in Europe was the hardest of my life, every aspect was new. It was very nerve-wrecking, but at the same time very exciting and rewarding”, reminisces Imke. The Brauhaus am Damm brewery was commissioned in August 2011 and since then Imke ensured that every batch brewed has been a good one. “Brewing has become my life, smiles Imke. “Accomplishment through passion is our motto. Passion is the best ingredient for a great beer!’
Chameleon Brewery – Hartbeespoort
Ruaan van den Berg and his wife Amanda were touring Europe when they first tasted the magical Weiss beer in a small town in Germany. A small town in Germany – Weikersheim – sparked the idea of opening their own brewery back home when Ruaan and Amanda van den Berg toured Europe in 1996. When they tried to order a Castle in the local pub they were polity offered a Weiss beer and it was love at first taste. They asked for the magical Weiss in pubs in Italy and France during their travels, naively under the impression that Weiss was a brand name. Back in South Africa Ruaan told Amanda that even if he has to steal this magical potion he is adamant to get hold of some Weiss beer. When he realised that the only legal way to get some Weiss was to brew it himself he joined a brew club, only to meet up with four old friends who have been brewing beer for the last twenty years. Ruaan calculates that himself and Amanda brewed and have tasted (drank really) hundreds of litres of beer over two years in his quest to brew the perfect local Weiss. Ruaan is a mechanical engineer in his other life and with this background and the help of his old friends the Chameleon Brewery was born. “Everyone should start a new career at 50,” Ruaan laughs shyly. “Although I can only brew over weekends for now, it will hopefully become a full time passion in the near future.” Ruaan brews between 300 and 600 litres on a weekend and battles to meet the demand. “We have been running the brewery for nearly two years now and hopefully this will become more permanent in the near future”, says Ruaan. “I have a passion for brewing beer and I love the feeling to see a customer enjoying my beer.”
Black Horse Brewery – Magaliesburg
Nuschka Botha is one of the youngest brewers in the country and one of only two female brewers in the Magalies Valley. The initial idea for a brewery at the Botha’s estate started with Nuschka’s father Bernard, who was looking for a new beer in South Africa after becoming despondent with the beer available on the local market. “The original plan was to build a small brewery for my father and his friends to enjoy,” says Nuschka. “This snowballed and we ordered a bigger brewery from China.” Bernard came up with the idea than his daughter should learn how to brew and Nuschka started reading up on the art of making beer. “I travelled to the Western Cape where I had some hands-on experience at their micro-breweries. I completed an apprenticeship at Heineken in Johannesburg in 2011 and brewed my first solo beer – the Black Horse’s signature Red Ale. “Our first encounter started when the equipment arrived from China – with all the instructions in Chinese”, remembered Bernard. They eventually managed to put everything together and their first brew was a major success. “That first sip was fantastic and we really thought we were the cat’s whiskers”, says Bernard. “Then we realised with a shock that to get the beer out of the kegs and into a glass is a completely different science on its own!” “We are a microbrewery that brews craft beer,” says Bernard. “The craft brew market has changed dramatically over the last few years. The days are gone when a craft beer drinker was seen as a long haired weirdo that wasn’t really concerned what he was putting down his throat. The modern beer drinker wanted more than what the traditional market allowed him to have. The younger beer drinker was never indoctrinated that there are only a few beers available to choose from whereas the older generation of beer drinkers will not go back to drinking commercial beer once they have tasted craft beer.” “We are in no hurry when we make our beer.”
With a name like Johannes Lodewikus Griesel it is no coincidence that it changed to “Roeks”. It is short for “roekeloos”, explains the owner of Mogallywood Brewery up on the southern slopes of the Magalies Mountain between Hekpoort and Rustenburg. “I think I’m the only craft brewer in the world that has two women brewers as neighbours,” laughs Roeks. (Imke from the Brauhaus am Damm and Nouschka from the Black Horse Brewery). When you talk to Roeks about beer he has a constant smile on his face, the ever present passion that one can always sense amongst these producers of the golden liquid. Roeks has been an active home brewer since 1968 and when he met his wife at a beer fest, the next logical step was to open a brewery. “My wife, Lauran, always wanted to be a movie star and when we moved out to the farm – a few miles away from Krugersdorp but thousands away from Hollywood – the name became Mogallywood,” smiles Roeks with that underlying warped sense of humour that seems to be part of the make-up of every true beer lover. Roeks only brews one style of beer, what he calls a very drinkable Bavarian type beer. “Those who like it are welcome to come and drink it, those who don’t must go and drink somewhere else”. The water at Mogallywood has been praised by academics as the best water in the world to brew beer with, according to Roeks. “I have customers that drink my beer that claim that it actually cures their gout. This is because I only use pure, natural ingredients for brewing my beer. And time – of course.”